- Associated Press - Monday, September 30, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A key group of New Mexico lawmakers will tour both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border this week and hear from the mayor of the largest Mexican city in the region as thousands of migrants wait in shelters there.

Ciudad Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada will be among those who will meet with members of New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee during a packed agenda that includes tours of a border checkpoint, a New Mexico shelter and testimony from local and federal officials.

Cabada has said his city has spent $300,000 on shelter for some 12,000 migrants who are waiting to seek asylum in the U.S. Juarez has about 30 employees and 15 police officers assigned to help the migrants.

More than 400,000 immigrants traveling in family groups with children have been stopped on the Mexico border in the past year, overwhelming federal border authorities and advocacy groups who have helped to provide meals, shelter and transportation.

Members of the legislative committee said they’re looking forward to getting a firsthand look at security issues, economic development needs and migrant conditions.

Republican Sen. Steven Neville of Aztec said the visit is timely given that New Mexico is expecting another budget surplus due to continued oil and gas development and some of that revenue could address needs along the border.

Before hearing from the Mexican officials, the New Mexico lawmakers will visit the Antelope Wells port of entry, a remote outpost where border authorities were overwhelmed earlier this year by large groups of migrants who were crossing during the overnight hours or before dawn.

The committee will stop at a shelter in Deming, visit the community of Columbus and talk with a New Mexico rancher who says he has dealt with break-ins, litter and property damage from trespassing migrants.

“Each and every one of us are touched to some degree by what is happening on our southern border. There is a cost to all of us of what is happening or not happening down there,” said Republican Sen. Bill Burt of Alamogordo.

The temporary closure earlier this year of Border Patrol checkpoints in southern New Mexico prompted Otero County to declare a state of emergency in April. Officials there said the closures resulted in more drugs moving through the area and a crime increase.

In Deming, city councilors declared an emergency in May in response to the increasing number of migrants crossing the border at the time. The city established a shelter and created an intake system to register migrants. The city council allocated $1 million to pay for the efforts and hopes to be reimbursed with federal money.

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