LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich on Wednesday visited a Las Cruces church as it renovates its space in anticipation of receiving refugees. Ans El Calvario United Methodist Church is preparing to shelter incoming migrants seeking asylum, Heinrich, D-New Mexico, says he wants to build more infrastructure in New Mexico to keep up with the migrant surges.
“Our challenge is coming up with doing the work and the logistics of how you address refugees in a way that is responsible, humane, legal and orderly,” Heinrich said. “We’re going to build that capacity and we’re going to do it in a way that is humane and respectful. I think the tenured that this administration is setting is correct but I want the urgency to be much more at the forefront.”
Heinrich recently secured $110 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Emergency Food and Shelter program. This funding is included in the American Rescue Plan, in efforts of supporting local non-governmental organizations who provide shelter and care for migrants at the southern border.
“We’re trying to build up the infrastructure. We have a group here that just committed long-term to doing that. We hope to help with the senator to try and start building that New Mexican infrastructure so that we can meet these contingencies as they come about every time,” said the Rev. George Miller, executive director of El Calvario Immigrant Advocacy Center.
Miller adds the church will offer various services such as medical needs, clothing, social workers, and economic development. “We’ve spent about $100,000 this year so far in just getting prepared and up to speed,” he said.
Heinrich says the focus in securing these funds in the American Rescue Plan is investing in more infrastructure, expertise, and local community partners addressing refugee surges. “I play a role in how much money was put into the recovery plan. The process of giving out those grants is not in my control specifically, but the language that we included was tailored for this kind of response,” Heinrich said.
Officials with El Calvario say its normal occupancy inside the church is 60, however, it may start migrant intake at half of that number. It would also build a separate intake outside where the parking lot is to provide COVID-19 testing accessibility.