Asylum Seeker Update:
As of mid-October 2019, the U.S. Border Patrol has ceased bringing asylum-seekers to Las Cruces. Faith-based groups have been serving the ones that are arriving in fewer numbers. The City of Las Cruces is ending its lease on the old armory that served as a processing center last summer. Since October, it has been used as a distribution center for donated items for the asylum-seekers. All those items have been distributed and the building is now empty.
Is Las Cruces a sanctuary city? No. City Council has never designated Las Cruces a sanctuary city. To do so must be through a resolution in a vote of the City Council at a public meeting.
Did City Council ask that asylum seekers be brought to Las Cruces? No. Neither the Mayor nor any member of City Council made such a request.
Then why are asylum seekers brought to Las Cruces? The order to bring them to Las Cruces was made at the federal level in Washington, D.C. Rather than leave them at bus stations or other locations within the community, the City of Las Cruces and its government and non-government partners are working to provide care before processing them through to their host families. (See more detail below.)
How much has City Council allocated for the care of the asylum seekers? In two separate actions at public meetings after receiving public input, City Council allocated an initial $75,000 when the situation first began, then $500,000 when it became apparent that the situation would be ongoing. Both allotments are in the form of indirect aid to provide temporary shelter, food, water, toiletries and to cover City staffing costs. The City is tracking all expenditures with the goal of being reimbursed by the federal government.
Where is the money coming from? From what is known as the “Telshor Fund” – money the City receives for the lease of Memorial Medical Center that is jointly owned by the City and County. The money allocated is from the interest, not the principal of that fund. The money is then placed in the City’s Health Care Services account.
Why doesn’t the City use that money for local needs and programs? It does. Every year the City allocates approximately $400,000 from the Telshor Fund to support various local health care-related needs. City Council approved the following at its May 6, 2019 meeting: Health-Related Public Services Program
What is the City doing to help prevent the flow of asylum seekers coming into our community? This is purely a federal issue, so the City is lobbying the federal government to manage the asylum seekers situation through congressional and administration action.
What long-term provisions has the City made to care for the asylum seekers? The City has leased the “old armory” at 1300 Brown Road to serve as a processing center. Aslyum seekers brought to Las Cruces by the U.S. Border Patrol would be taken there for processing then transferred to shelters for either an overnight stay or to be transitioned out to their host families. This facility is not intended to be an overnight shelter but could serve as one if the other shelters reach capacity.
What is the Process for Asylum Seekers to Enter the U.S.
There are two ways of obtaining asylum in the United States: through an affirmative process and a defensive process.
In “affirmative asylum” cases, an individual is in the U.S. or has arrived at a point of entry and has declared his or her application for asylum to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within one year of their arrival in country. A decision granting asylum may be made by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer.
In “defensive asylum” cases, an individual has requested asylum as a form of relief or defense against forcible removal from the U.S. before an immigration judge. The individual may have been undocumented or in violation of his or her status when apprehended in the U.S. or were caught trying to enter the U.S. without proper documentation and found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture.
- Asylum is not automatically granted.
- Individuals seeking asylum are often released on their own recognizance after a background check has been conducted and paperwork to enter the U.S. – at least temporarily, is proper. Paperwork would be the application and any other related documents needed to be granted asylum.
- A condition to approve paperwork submitted by an individual seeking asylum is that they must have a sponsor or host family who will shelter the asylum seeker in the city or community where they would live if they are granted asylum. When initial processing of the paperwork in Las Cruces has been completed, the asylum seeker will be sent to the sponsor or host family.
- If an asylum seeker does not enter the U.S. at a port of entry, they are considered to be entering the U.S. illegally.
- When the paperwork for asylum seekers is processed in Las Cruces, or anywhere else detainees may be taken, asylum seekers are usually given a hearing in U.S. Immigration Court within 30 days of being processed.
Details about obtaining asylum in the U.S. are available online at: https://www.uscis.gov/