The city of Santa Fe will not be providing temporary housing to asylum-seekers after all.
But the city will still assist the large number of migrants crossing the state’s border with Mexico in other ways, including raising money, organizing volunteers and collecting clothes, nonperishable food and other donations, Mayor Alan Webber said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
“The best way for Santa Fe to help, largely because of the issue of logistics, which is the most significant part of this situation, the greatest help we can provide is not to stand up our own shelter,” Webber said, explaining that the city is not well-positioned for sheltering those headed to out-of-state destinations.
A vast majority of the asylum-seekers who are being dropped off by the Border Patrol in Las Cruces are not looking to settle in New Mexico but are headed to other states to join their sponsors, Webber said.
“Since we are not an originator of Greyhound or other commercial buses, our help bringing them here and then sending them back to Albuquerque really is not an efficient or effective use of our community resources,” he said.
Webber said the city of Albuquerque will be “adding capacity” for what he called the “rapid transit” of asylum-seekers to their sponsors.
“In as much as Albuquerque is a much larger transportation hub, centralizing these efforts in Albuquerque will maximize everyone’s ability to take care of the asylum-seekers and to provide them the care that they need,” he said.
After discussions with representatives from the offices of Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who reached out to Webber for help last week, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, it was determined that Santa Fe is better suited to raise money, collect donations and “organize volunteers who could go to Albuquerque and Las Cruces and lend a hand in those communities,” the mayor said.
Webber said the Santa Fe Community Foundation is prepared to create a fund “that would be designated as a fund for the assistance of refugees and asylum-seekers.”
Though the fund has yet to be created, Webber said donations to the effort can be made on the foundation’s website at santafecf.org, but donors will have to specify that the money is meant to help asylum-seekers.
Webber also said the effort to help asylum-seekers should not “divert our attention to our own immigrant community who are residents here.”
“They have recently been subjected to a series of I-9 raids by [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents in our hotels and in our hospitality industry,” he said, referring to audits of government forms that verify a worker’s identity and employment authorization. “These people who are having their papers checked are being victimized just as much as the asylum-seekers are.”
Webber said ICE agents are rounding up immigrants working in Santa Fe and deporting them.
“These are people who have been living here for a long time and have been very constructive and contributing members of our community,” he said. “We should never lose sight of the people who are residents and members of our community now and recognize that they are also being subjected to the ICE agents’ raids.”
Asked after the meeting what he would tell people who say ICE agents are only doing their jobs and deporting people who are in the country illegally, Webber said: “I would say that if I were an ICE agent, I would refuse to do that job.”
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.