The grassroots groups helping asylum-seekers on the border

One morning this spring in the parking lot of a mall south of Tucson, Arizona, four people gathered around a gray minivan as the sun spilled into the still-cold desert air. Bags loaded with toys and stuffed animals filled the trunk of the van — donated by the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans, one of dozens of humanitarian aid groups working to help migrants in the Arizona Borderlands. The donations were destined for an aid station for migrants in Nogales, a city that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border just 40 minutes south of here. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission. Shura Wallin, a petite woman in her 70s with an animated face and boundless energy, has led weekly volunteer trips to the aid station, or comedor, for more than 20 years.

Armed vigilantes along border bring national attention

A group of armed, masked vigilantes who have held those crossing the border, including those seeking asylum, until Border Patrol arrived has brought national attention to New Mexico and the ongoing border debate. The far-right group which calls itself United Constitutional Patriots recorded members detaining men, women and children who crossed the U.S./Mexico border in New Mexico and broadcast it on Facebook last week. Their actions drew immediate condemnation from a range of New Mexico elected officials, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Hector Balderas, who said individuals “should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement.”

A spokesman for the governor’s office told NM Political Report they have been in contact with the AG, state police and local police about the group to stay informed. U.S. Customs and Border Protection wrote on Twitter, “#CBP does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands. Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gavin Clarkson, meanwhile, appeared in a Facebook video with the group.

Temporary immigration detention facilities to open in El Paso, Rio Grande Valley

“Temporary immigration detention facilities to open in El Paso, Rio Grande Valley” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley are less than two weeks away from the scheduled opening of temporary detention centers that will each house up to 500 migrants who have crossed the border to seek asylum. The facilities, commonly referred to as a “tent cities,” are the federal government’s response to the ongoing crush of migrants, mainly from Central America, who continue to cross into Texas after traveling through Mexico. “U.S. Customs & Border Protection urgently needs to provide for additional shelter capacity to accommodate individuals in CBP’s custody throughout the southwest border,” CBP said in a written statement. “The overwhelming number of individuals arriving daily to the U.S. has created an immediate need for additional processing space in El Paso, Texas and Donna, Texas.”

On Thursday, a U.S. Border Patrol official who asked not to be named said the facility would likely be at the agency’s station in northeast El Paso near U.S. Highway 54.

Federal government to accelerate Customs and Border Protection redeployment amid migrant surge

“Federal government to accelerate Customs and Border Protection redeployment amid migrant surge” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. President Donald Trump’s administration said Monday it will begin returning more migrants to Mexico after they apply for asylum in the U.S. and ordered Customs and Border Protection officials to speed up the redeployment of agents to help the Border Patrol process a growing surge of migrants arriving at the border. Last week, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said 750 CBP agents would be pulled from their regular positions at the ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego to assist Border Patrol. On Monday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen told CBP to accelerate the reallocation and consider reassigning more officers. “CBP is directed to explore raising that target, is authorized to exceed it, and shall notify the Secretary if reassignments are planned to exceed 2,000 personnel,” the DHS said in a news release.

NM to sue Trump administration over emergency declaration, calling president ‘desperate’

The state of New Mexico will join a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the president’s  declaration of a national emergency to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. California announced last week that it would sue the federal government. And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on the ABC Sunday morning talk show “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” that New Mexico and five other states would join California in the lawsuit against the Trump administration. Update: In all, 16 states, including New Mexico, filed suit. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office did not  say exactly which states were involved, but confirmed the lawsuit would be filed.

Ad of Lujan Grisham smashing ‘Trump’s wall’ goes viral

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham does her own stunts. In high heels, no less. As President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address Tuesday night, Lujan Grisham released a never-before-seen political ad on Twitter that shows the diminutive Democrat smashing through walls in high heels while talking about breaking barriers to improve New Mexico. In the ad, the president took a hit, too. “And here’s what I think of Trump’s wall,” Lujan Grisham says at the end of the ad before she shatters drywall that held the president’s portrait.

Feds to boost troops at border as Lujan Grisham pulls Guard members out

The federal government is sending more troops to the U.S. border with Mexico just as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pulls back National Guard personnel from the state’s southern frontier. But the Department of Defense is not saying whether any of 3,750 additional troops headed to the border will be coming to New Mexico. Related: Feds to boost troops at border as Lujan Grisham pulls Guard members out

“The specific units and locations are still being finalized,” Maj. Mark Lazane said Wednesday. “We hope to release that information when it becomes available, but we aren’t able to do so at this time.”

In defiance of what Trump calls a ‘national security crisis,’ NM governor pulls most National Guard troops from border

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that she withdrew most of New Mexico’s National Guard troops from the border. Troops in Hidalgo County and neighboring, however, will remain in place. She also temporarily deployed six New Mexico State Police officers to Hidalgo County to assist local law enforcement agencies. “I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “However, I recognize and appreciate the legitimate concerns of residents and officials in southwestern New Mexico, particularly Hidalgo County, who have asked for our assistance, as migrants and asylum-seekers continue to appear at their doorstep.”

A spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham said that between 11 and 15 National Guard troops will remain deployed, out of 118 before her order.

Federal politics unite unlikely coalitions at the border

The last two years of the Trump administration have been challenging for both environmental and immigrant advocacy groups at the border. Renewed calls to build a $25 billion wall that would cut through important wildlife habitat for species like the jaguar and the Mexican gray wolf, combined with the impacts of ramped-up militarization in border communities, have increasingly united conservationists and social justice activists. This newfound collaboration is especially strong in Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission. Here, in the Borderlands, groups like the faith-based organization NMCAFé and the American Civil Liberties Union Regional Center for Border Rights have long worked on immigration reform and fought for immigrant rights at detention facilities.

Migrants get a second chance at asylum. But it’s still “an uphill battle.”

Ruby Powers didn’t rush to celebrate when her client, a Honduran mother who has been separated from her 15-year-old son and detained for four months, passed her second “credible fear” interview to restart the asylum process. Although the president and the American Civil Liberties Union have come to an agreement giving migrant families separated at the border this summer a second chance to make their case for staying in the country, immigration lawyers say the Trump administration is still working overtime to upend the nation’s asylum process. And while a few hundred people may get a second chance at asylum, there are likely tens of thousands of asylum-seekers who will be subject to a tightened asylum process. “It’s infinitely harder on all levels,” Powers said. “With the chipping away of the asylum law, it’s an uphill battle to try to get an approval.”
The primary source of their unease?