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CITY OF LAS CRUCES

Miyagishima joins peers for border tour, update

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Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima joined seven other mayors, most from cities in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, for a meeting in El Paso July 11 on the crisis caused by the influx asylum seekers continuing to coming to the U.S. Mexican border and the impact it is having on Las Cruces, El Paso and other U.S. border cities.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan attended the meeting along with El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, Mesa (Arizona) Mayor John Giles, Killeen (Texas) Mayor Jose Segarra, Yuma (Arizona) Mayor Douglas Nicholls and Rochester Hills (Michigan) Mayor Bryan Barnett, resident of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which sponsored the meeting.

The mayors also toured a U.S. Border Patrol detention facility in El Paso where asylum seekers entering the United States are held “immediately before they come to Las Cruces,” Miyagishima said in a telephone interview.

Miyagishima said the mayors “couldn’t talk to any of the detainees, which was really odd.” They were not allowed to take pictures or shoot video at the facility, he said. The tour was conducted by about a dozen high-ranking Border Patrol officials, Miyagishima said. One was selected as the “point of contact” for the mayors, who were told not to ask questions of any Border Patrol officers.

Miyagishima said McAleenan discussed the border situation with the mayors, including cities’ requests for federal reimbursement for expenses incurred providing services to asylum seekers.

The mayor said a DHS assistant secretary attending the meeting with McAleenan told the mayors the influx of asylum seekers coming to the U.S.-Mexico border is due in part to individuals in Mexico encouraging residents in Central America to come to the U.S. and then abandoning them on the Mexican side of the international border.

McAleenan told the mayors the situation may be improving in at least one Central American country, El Salvador, Miyagishima said. A new president, Nayib Bukele, was inaugurated June 1 and could improve the situation in that country, Miyagishima said, encouraging more of its citizens to remain there instead of seeking asylum in the U.S.

Miyagishima said the other mayors were amazed by the number of asylum seekers Las Cruces has processed since mid-April. That number now stands at more than 13,000.

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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