City of Deming in New Mexico declares state of emergency over migrant releases

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TAOS, NM (Reuters) – The small town of Deming, New Mexico, has become the latest U.S. border community to declare a state of emergency after dozens of migrants were released into the town by federal authorities seeking to cope with an increase in the number of asylum seekers coming from across the southern border of the United States.

Deming, a town of about 15,000 people located about 56 km north of the border, made the move on Monday after US Border Patrol agents dropped off about 170 migrants, the Deming Headlight newspaper reported, citing the City Administrator Aaron Sera.

The city has declared an emergency “in the hope that this will trigger assistance from federal and state officials,” Sera said in a statement emailed Wednesday.

Recent releases in the biggest wave of migrants across the US-Mexico border in more than a decade have divided communities.

Democratic-controlled towns such as Las Cruces, New Mexico, are using taxpayer dollars to shelter migrants, while Republican-controlled Otero County, New Mexico, passed a resolution against migrant housing and the use of taxpayers’ funds to do so.

President Donald Trump, who made the issue of illegal immigration a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign, called the surge in asylum seekers an “invasion” that justifies his call for the construction of a border wall and a hardening policy.

Deming is the third border community to declare an emergency over the issue, following Yuma, Arizona and Otero County in April.

The US Border Patrol began releasing migrants directly to border communities in April after its detention facilities were overwhelmed. The agency is turning to smaller cities as shelters reach capacity in El Paso, Texas and other cities.

“We don’t know how many, if any, will be dropped off there again, it’s just a day-to-day thing,” said Ramiro Cordero, spokesman for the US Border Patrol in the El sector. Paso, asked about Deming.

A spokeswoman for Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham criticized the releases in small towns like Deming.

“Communities like Las Cruces and Deming are being bullied by the federal government, they didn’t ask for these releases to happen,” Claudia Tristán said, adding that the state is helping Deming and urging U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop targeting these small communities.

Otero County officials slammed Lujan Grisham for ordering National Guard troops out of the border at a time when Border Patrol must withdraw officers from highway checkpoints and border crossings to deal with the influx.

Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin warned that empty checkpoints and the distraction of large groups of migrants were allowing Mexican cartels to flood New Mexico with drugs. He cited the spike in drug seizures by county police since checkpoints were left empty in March.

“The cartels are simply using the human end to promote illegal narcotics trafficking,” Griffin said by phone.

Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Frank McGurty and Rosalba O’Brien

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