The city of Deming, New Mexico, has declared emergency in response to federal authorities’ sending over a 100 asylum seekers from Central America to the city over the weekend. The City Council voted on May 13 to make the declaration, hoping that an emergency would “trigger assistance from both the federal government and state officials”. Deming is the third city in the United States to declare an emergency over the arrival of asylum seekers from Central America in 2019 alone.
Border Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency have been increasingly relying on smaller cities in border States like New Mexico, Texas and Arizona to accommodate the newly processed and released families. While some cities have accepted the refugees, others, mostly republican-controlled, have refused to divert public funds towards “harboring illegal immigrants”.
Deming is coordinating relief effort for newly-arrived families with the help of volunteers from the community. Citizens have been actively providing food, water, communication and transportation services to the refugees till they receive assistance from federal authorities.The Southwestern New Mexico Fairgrounds has been turned into a makeshift shelter for families with young children. The city-owned airport hangar has been turned into an intake area where the Deming Fire Department is conducting medical screenings.
Deming is the latest border community to be affected, after Oreto County and Yuma, Arizona, in April, as the Border Patrol and ICE shelters at the border reach capacity. Cities in New Mexico, in particular, have been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of asylum seekers. Shelters in cities like Las Cruces are overcrowded, understaffed and struggling to assist the newly arrived families. In the absence of federal aid, the State has been pushed to coordinate with non-border States to accommodate refugees. On May 15, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that the State would collaborate with Annunciation House, a non-profit organization that works with asylum seekers, to send some of the newly arrived families to Denver, Colorado.
Thousands of refugees arrived at the US-Mexico border after traveling more than 4,000 km in 2018. They were fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. President Donald Trump labelled this migrant caravan as “an invasion” and deployed about 5,800 troops to “secure the border”. Crackdown on migration was the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Since he came into power, his administration has presented a number of stringent immigration policies, including the notorious “zero tolerance” family separation policy against undocumented immigrants.