Commentary: Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that the Senate agreement on border humanitarian assistance includes $30 million in reimbursement funds for localities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in New Mexico and elsewhere that are providing much-needed humanitarian relief to asylum seekers. In May, the full New Mexico delegation – Udall and Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Xochitl Torres Small, and Deb Haaland – wrote to the leadership of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees requesting reimbursement in light of the release of thousands of asylum seekers into New Mexico, and the subsequent strain on local resources.
“I am proud to have worked alongside the New Mexico delegation to secure this urgently-needed funding for New Mexico communities in this Senate agreement, and will be working diligently to get it over the finish line,” said Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who was in Las Cruces recently meeting with community leaders and volunteers helping asylum seekers. “New Mexico communities and organizations are on the front-lines of the humanitarian crisis at our border, they are being stretched thin, and they are bearing the burden of the federal government’s policies. These local communities and organizations are showing the best of New Mexico – but they need help and relief. This is not a partisan issue. That’s why I’ve worked so hard to secure these reimbursement funds, and won’t stop working until New Mexicans get the help they deserve as they deal with this crisis.”
“One of the most incredible stories, that is truly emblematic of the spirit of New Mexico, has been how local communities, non-profits, and charities have cared for these families seeking refuge in our country,” said Heinrich. “Under strenuous conditions, put in place by a callous, calculating Administration, these communities – neighbors to all, strangers to none – have stepped up to meet challenges typically addressed by the federal government. That is why we worked so hard to secure funding to reimburse these New Mexicans that have shouldered the burden of the Trump Administration’s reckless policies for far too long. While I am pleased this was included, I will continue to monitor this package as it is debated in the Senate.”
The funding is provided through a Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) program called the Emergency Food and Shelter Program under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. These funds will provide assistance to jurisdictions and local recipient organizations serving communities that have experienced a significant influx of migrants. The funds may be used to reimburse jurisdictions and organizations for costs incurrent in providing services dating back to January 1, 2019.
The local reimbursement funding was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee as part of a larger emergency border supplemental funding agreement totaling $4.6 billion on Thursday by a vote of 30 to 1. The agreement includes $2.88 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to care for unaccompanied minors who are seeking asylum while they await placement with sponsor families and $1.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve conditions and alleviate overcrowding at facilities along the border. The agreement does not fund additional border barrier activities. The bill now awaits full Senate consideration.