ARTESIA — Residents in southeastern New Mexico crowded a town hall meeting Tuesday to express anger at the opening of a temporary detention center for immigrants suspected of entering the country illegally.
Around 400 people attended the meeting in Artesia to speak out against holding up to 700 Central American women and children at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Currently, fewer than 200 people are at the center.
City and federal officials fielded questions from residents, including how long the facility would be used for detention.
Residents told federal and local authorities they were afraid the immigrants might take jobs from locals and resources away from American-born children.
“Yes, we need to provide [to] those, for the women and children,” resident Ginger Kelly told KOAT-TV. “But I also think … our government needs to look at our own kids.”
Kelly said some area residents are struggling with hunger and a lack of health insurance.
Only a handful of residents spoke out in favor of helping immigrants.
“Basically, we have to treat people the way most people are intended to be treated,” said Anthony Morales, who spoke at the town hall.
The Artesia town hall meeting was just the latest display of anger by some who are against the federal government’s plan to house immigrants amid a recent surge.
In California, U.S. Homeland Security buses carrying migrant children and families were rerouted Tuesday to a facility in San Diego after American flag-waving protesters blocked the group from reaching a processing center.
The standoff in Murrieta came after Mayor Alan Long urged residents to complain to elected officials about the plan to transfer the Central American migrants to California to ease overcrowding of facilities along the Texas-Mexico border.
Last month, the Obama administration announced plans to convert the training center into one of several temporary sites being established to deal with the influx of women and children from Central America. Some have said they are fleeing gang violence and poverty in their home countries.
The three barracks at the Artesia site will hold people as they await deportation or seek asylum.
Officials said a number of the immigrants have relatives in the northeast and, if granted asylum, would likely move there.
Meanwhile, Bishop Cantu of the Las Cruces Catholic Diocese announced Tuesday a new humanitarian program, “Project Oak Tree,” to provide temporary shelter and assistance for immigrant women and children.
Cantu said the program is based on the story from Genesis in which Abraham provided three travelers with food and help.