ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell on Friday asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to deploy New Mexico National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border as more migrant families and unaccompanied children arrive, but the Democratic governor’s office suggested that she redirect her concerns to the federal government.
Herrell, the state’s sole Republican member of Congress, wrote in a letter to the governor that the state is on the front lines and the influx amounts to a public health threat that could compromise the progress New Mexico has made in curbing the coronavirus pandemic. She said that since President Joe Biden’s election, the situation at the border has worsened due to both perception and the policies of his administration.
“The U.S. Border Patrol is overworked, undermanned and under-supplied,” Herrell wrote. “It is your duty as the governor of our great state to protect our citizens from both COVID-19 and the cartels that cross our border.”
The governor’s office said the National Guard has been busy with efforts to keep New Mexicans safe during the pandemic by staffing COVID-19 testing sites, delivering food, water and other supplies to communities and helping with the vaccination campaign.
“We encourage the congresswoman to most effectively address her own concerns by directing them to the federal agencies working on the issue,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett told The Associated Press in an email.
The governor’s office had no comment about the recent cases of children being abandoned along the border in southern New Mexico.
The U.S. Border Patrol on Thursday reported nearly 170,000 encounters with migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border in March, marking a 20-year high. That includes nearly 19,000 children traveling alone across the border, which was the largest monthly number ever recorded. March’s count was roughly double the number of unaccompanied children encountered by the Border Patrol in February and more than five times the number in March 2020.
Border Patrol agents earlier this week located a group of migrants near Lordsburg after getting a call for assistance from a resident. A woman in the group who had an 8-year-old boy with her said she had found the child walking alone in the desert and took him in as they made their way to the border.
The unaccompanied boy was transferred to a processing center pending placement with the Health and Human Services Department, which has been struggling to find temporary housing for tens of thousands of migrant children.
“The number of people attempting to cross our southern border is unprecedented and something must change in order to deter migrants from making that life-threatening journey,” Herrell wrote the governor. “I believe that change is deploying National Guard troops to the border, and I again call on you to do so.”
In neighboring Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has accused the Biden administration of ignoring the situation along the southern border.
Ducey has been pushing for the administration to fund a border deployment. When asked Thursday whether he would be willing to use state funds to send National Guard troops to the border, Ducey said the state would “use every tool, authority and resource that we have to be successful on the southern border” but noted that Arizona would need to work together with the federal government.