- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Dormitories at a state exposition center in Albuquerque are being offered to asylum seeking immigrants in search of temporary shelter, officials announced on Tuesday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, both Democrats, issued a statement that beds and kitchen space on the grounds of the annual state fair will be available to immigrants.

Thousands of Central American migrants have been dropped off in New Mexico by U.S. Border Patrol in recent weeks as asylum seekers overwhelm shelters near ports of entry in West Texas.

Separately, Border Patrol agents reported the apprehension of more than 650 migrants in two groups at the border with Mexico at Sunland Park and the remote Antelope Wells Port of Entry.

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Claudia Tristan said immigrants are expected to stay at state facilities in Albuquerque for 24 to 72 hours before leaving to reach relatives or other sponsors throughout the U.S. The facility is located in one of the most racially and ethnically diverse areas of Albuquerque.

Expo spokeswoman Oona Gonzales said the effort is geared toward asylum-seeking families and that the available dormitories are equipped to shelter 60 migrants. She expected migrants to arrive later in the week, and said the facilities could eventually accommodate 240 people.

An area was being set up for the donation of emergency supplies. Faith-based groups and charities were providing food, water and transportation. State health officials were providing low-level medical treatment.

Typically, beds at the fairgrounds are used in late summer for visiting contestants in competitions from the 4-H and Future Farmers of America, Gonzales said.

Keller said it was in the public’s interest to provide for the basic needs of migrants as they make their way to sponsor homes.

“As the only major hub city in the state with significant air and ground transport, the reality is that asylum seekers will be traveling through Albuquerque whether we help them or they are simply left on the streets,” he said in a statement. “We are going to handle the effects of what is happening at the border.”

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