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Local borderland communities prepare for an influx of migrants as Title 42 is lifted

A migrant in El Paso sits on an American Red Cross blanket.
Jonny Coker
A migrant in El Paso sits on an American Red Cross blanket.

With the lifting of Title 42, border towns are preparing for an influx of migrants moving through their communities. Mayor of Sunland Park Javier Perea said that the city has issues with migrants unlawfully crossing the border, leading to injuries and loss of life.

“We’ve had incidents of finding dead bodies out in the desert. Especially now with the heat coming in in the summer,” he said. “We’ve found dead bodies on Cristo Rey, we’ve had to pull dead bodies out of there. It’s not an easy task to do, and it does take a lot of dollars for us to be able to provide these additional services. So it does have an impact on our community. And every time that we have to respond to one of these calls, it takes away from our ability to respond to other calls across the city.”

Perea said that there is a need for more personnel at the border, but until the federal government passes some sort of meaningful immigration reform, it’s all just a band-aid.

The mayor also said that there need to be more straightforward pathways for migrants to come into the U.S. to deter unlawful crossings and human smuggling operations.

“It is frustrating. There’s a sense of hopelessness sometimes. We’ve had Democratically controlled congresses, and also with a Democratic president. And yet the issue of immigration persists. We’ve had a Republican-controlled Congress and the issue persists. And every campaign season immigration is a major issue, and yet no one produces an actual solution. That’s the frustrating part of all of this.”

Local borderland communities prepare for an influx of migrants as Title 42 is lifted

Jenifer Jones is a state representative for New Mexico’s 32nd district, which includes Doña Ana, Hidalgo, and Luna County. She sent a letter to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in April calling for the New Mexico National Guard to assist federal border agents.

“When we have a surge of people coming to the ports of entry, what happens here in New Mexico, in this remote area, is our border agents are reassigned to take care of administrative duties, transporting people, helping people be fed and clothed and so forth. Then we are even shorter on agents and genuine border security for criminal activity here in my district.”

Jones said that she doesn’t currently have an answer for federal legislation that would ease the humanitarian crisis at the border, but at the moment, her focus is on her own district.

“I think we need to make sure that we’re not compromising our own citizens’ security and opportunity and so forth by allowing people in that we can’t take care of. And that would really compromise everyone’s ability to continue with the great country that we have. Which is why people want to come here.”

In Las Cruces, the Non-Profit Border Servant Corps is gearing up for an influx of migrants. Kari [Car-ee] Lenander is the executive director, and said the organization is working with government entities as well as other nonprofit organizations in order to help process migrants and help them get to where they’re going.

“The fact that things, policies and practices, continue to change, that’s just not helpful for folks who are migrating. And it’s not helpful on the borderlands. For everyone from DHS to NGOs to government entities. When we continue to have changing practices and policies, how are we ever going to get to some kind of situation normal?” she asked.

Lenander said that as long as the federal government fails to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, things will only continue to get worse.

“I think We need clear, consistent, available pathways for people to migrate. Through a variety of forums. We need the asylum process to be consistent, we need expanded capacity to deal with backlogs, both on the front end and the back end, and we need that for the migrants who are coming, and for everyone who’s involved.”

Evelyn Sandoval
The United States - Mexico border just outside of El Paso.

In response to rhetoric urging migrants to stay out of the United States, Lenander said that it’s important to reflect on why individuals migrate in the first place.

“We have to look at who we are and who we want to be. And I think it comes down to the values that we have, and the way that we see ourselves in the world. We need to look at the things that the United States has been a part of in the past and continues to be a part of. Why are people seeking asylum worldwide? Whoever we might want to blame, we need some kind of positive response at this point. And so I think the questions that we need to start asking ourselves is how can we as the U.S. be a part of this solution? Not just on the southern border, not just in the United States, but worldwide with our partners.”

With the potential of even more migrants seeking asylum, Lenander said that it’s important for Americans to treat incoming foreigners with humanity and respect.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.
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