KRWG

Commentary: New Mexico Sues Trump Administration Over Immigration Policies

Jun 10, 2019

Credit Office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Commentary: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday announced her office, on behalf of the state of New Mexico, is suing the U.S. government in an effort to halt the Trump administration’s indiscriminate practice of releasing migrants in communities in the state’s borderland area in violation of the federal government’s “safe release” policy, leaving vulnerable individuals and families without assistance and burdening local governments as well as nonprofit organizations. The complaint is also seeking reimbursement for the costs incurred by the state as a result of the federal government’s derogation of duty to administer this country’s immigration system and claims of asylum.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, the governor’s complaint, with the city of Albuquerque as co-plaintiff, takes issue with the federal government’s abandonment of its longstanding safe release program, through which asylum-seeking individuals were provided assistance in reaching their final destinations while waiting for their claims to be processed. The sudden and unlawful abandonment of this policy was done without notice or opportunity for input by affected jurisdictions, the state and city of Albuquerque included. The policy decisions of the federal government have had profound and myriad impacts upon the state of New Mexico and on asylum seekers, who have been left to fend for themselves in border-adjacent New Mexico communities. While the state and border communities have endeavored to avert an escalation of the humanitarian crisis this policy has exacerbated, New Mexico’s efforts have come at great cost, and there exists no timeline for a cessation or easing of the situation. 

The state and city are asking the court to vacate the federal government’s termination of its safe release policy, as it is without legal force or effect; issue preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring the named defendants to provide asylum-seeking individuals and families the equivalent assistance to that provided under the safe release policy; and require a reimbursement of the expenses the state and city have incurred in response to the unlawful abandonment of the safe release policy.

The complaint names Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Acting Director Mark Morgan of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Deputy Director Matthew Albence of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Executive Associate Director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Nathalie Asher and Carla Provost, the chief of U.S. Border Patrol.

“The Trump administration has consistently and flagrantly failed in its response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis at our southern border as well as in addressing legitimate border security concerns,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “The president has shown time and again he is interested only in demonizing the vulnerable people who arrive at our border, stoking unfounded fears about national security while taking no action to substantively and proactively protect immigrants and our southern border communities from human- and drug-trafficking. There has been no leadership. In the vacuum, New Mexico communities have stepped up. But long-term remedies are needed. This legal action is intended to protect, in equal measure, New Mexicans and local governments in the southern part of our state as well as the asylum-seeking individuals from Central America and elsewhere who have been treated with neglect by decision-makers in Washington.”

“Local faith-based organizations and volunteers have been left to clean up the federal administration’s immigration mess,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said. “By abandoning the ‘safe release’ policy, the federal government has abandoned the border states. Albuquerque’s compassionate community members stepped up to help these struggling families as they legally pass through our city on their difficult journey, and our city has stepped up to support our friends and neighbors with this effort. It’s time for the federal administration to step up and fulfill its legal responsibilities to these families, to our state and to our city.”

In April, San Diego County filed a similar lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Southern California.