New Mexico's state fairgrounds will begin to house migrant families to take pressure off border cities facing a surge in asylum seekers with no help from the federal government, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Tuesday.
Dormitories at state-run Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque will provide temporary accommodation to several dozen migrants, becoming one of the largest migrant shelters in the state, said a joint statement from the governor and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, both Democrats.
Lujan Grisham has called for a humanitarian response to the rise in asylum seekers, condemning a "charade of fear-mongering" by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has variously warned of a migrant "crisis" and "invasion" at the country's southern border with Mexico.
"The federal government has not provided shelter or timely adjudication at the border leaving migrants without any means to make arrangements to get to their sponsors or family members in the United States," the statement said.
Migrant shelters in border cities like El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico, are at or near capacity as record numbers of mainly Central American families cross the border to seek asylum.
The mayors of New Mexico's three largest cities - Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Santa Fe - have offered resources to help charities and faith-based organizations care for migrants after they are dropped off by U.S. immigration authorities.
"Burqueños (Albuquerque residents) of every faith, ethnicity, and background have come together where the federal government has failed, to make sure the asylum seekers traveling legally through our community have the basic needs of human dignity met," Keller said in the statement.
Las Cruces has received over 2,400 migrants since the U.S. Border Patrol began to release them directly to shelters on April 12, said Claudia Tristan, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham.
The Expo Center will absorb the cost of housing migrants in its existing operating budget, Tristan said.
Faith-based and charity organizations will continue to provide food, medical services and transportation to migrants, who will spend a night or two at the center before traveling on to final destinations in the United States, the statement said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said her agency would work with El Paso's Annunciation House migrant organization to coordinate transportation of migrants to the Expo Center.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which runs the U.S. Border Patrol, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.