June 11, 2019

State, ABQ suing federal government over changes on policy for asylum seekers

Daniel Arauz

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco in November, 2018. Flickr/cc

The office of the governor announced Monday the state filed suit against the Trump administration over changes to the federal government’s “safe release” policy that provided aid for asylum seekers.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, says the federal government’s abandonment of the policy is unlawful and has “profoundly impacted” the state of New Mexico and the city of Albuquerque, which is also a plaintiff on the suit.

The state wants the Trump administration to reverse its decision on the policy and to reimburse the costs associated with the change.

“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,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “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.”

In October of last year, the Trump administration abruptly ended the Safe Release program, which had been in place for a decade. The program gave asylum seekers who crossed the border aid in reaching friends or family in the United States.

The lawsuit alleges the “sudden change in policy violated procedural and substantive provisions of the Administrative Procedute Act (“APA”) and was therefore unlawful.”

When the Trump administration reversed this, asylum seekers were instead released in border communities without assistance, leaving it to the state, local governments and non-profits—including religious institutions—to assist the asylum seekers.

According to the lawsuit, the federal government has released approximately 9,000 asylum seekers in Las Cruces and 4,700 in Deming so far this year. The suit says Albuquerque receives between 150 and 250 asylum seekers each week.

This has left the burden on these local governments and the state, according to the lawsuit.

“In order to prevent a potentially significant humanitarian and/or public health crisis, New Mexico state and local governments have been forced to step in and provide the basic assistance to these people that the federal government has callously (and without prior warning) refused to provide at a cost of million of dollars,” the lawsuit states.

The state has provided $750,000 in emergency grants to local governments affected by the release of asylum seekers.

The City of Albuquerque is a plaintiff because of its status as “the primary transportation hub in New Mexico.”

“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,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said. “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.”

The suit names officials in charge of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as defendants.

Earlier this year, the California county of San Diego sued the federal government over the same change in policy. That county’s board of supervisors are majority Republican.

NM, CABQ laswuit against federal government by New Mexico Political Report on Scribd