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City Council Considers Aid to Support Organizations Addressing Asylum Seekers

R-19-143 appropriates $250,000 from FY19’s unallocated funds to provide grants and/or contracts to established non-profits, specialized service providers, and faith-based organizations providing services to asylum seekers.

Summary of Bill

R-19-143, sponsored by City Councilor Pat Davis, appropriates $250,000 from FY19’s unallocated funds to provide grants and/or contracts to established non-profits, specialized service providers, and faith-based organizations providing medical services, basic needs including showers, clothing and toiletries, children’s services, and temporary shelter. It also allows the city to hire/contract a full-time person to coordinate support and logistics, alleviating more than a dozen city employees currently working to support these efforts in addition to their regular full-time duties.

Read the whole resolution here.


Why are Albuquerque residents having to help federal asylum seekers?

Immigration is a federal issue but the federal government has failed to address this issue for years. When a person arrives at our border seeking asylum, their claim is evaluated at the border.

Only those persons determined to have a “reasonable possibility” of winning an asylum claim are allowed to stay in the US. All of the persons currently released to US cities are persons who have met those asylum standards and are scheduled for hearings.  Persons who fail to meet that standard are returned to their country of origin.

Persons who are determined to have a qualifying claim are assigned a sponsor in the US and are released in the US pending that hearing. Federal officials have traditionally helped those asylum seekers make arrangements to reach their sponsors, but lately the federal government has begun transporting them to nearby cities and releasing them on the streets without access to transportation, food, water, medical assistance, or shelter. Many abandoned families include children.

When the federal government releases hundreds of asylum seekers onto our streets without help or a plan, we should help; otherwise, they are likely to end up homeless on our streets.

Several weeks ago, a group of faith-based organizations and churches began organizing to help asylum seekers with basic aid, including transportation to their final sponsors around the country. Local donors provided early funds for that, but their capacity to help has now been exceeded.

Federal officials have begun abandoning more asylum seekers in our city and the non-profits helping are now beyond their capacity.

By assisting these groups with funding to continue providing temporary humanitarian assistance, asylum seekers abandoned in Albuquerque will get to their final destination, often within a few days.

Asylum seekers arriving in Albuquerque continue to their sponsors across the country after receiving short-term assistance and time to plan their trip.

However, if we did nothing, many would remain in Albuquerque without basic help or transportation and would quickly become homeless, or worse. 

If you are upset about the way the federal government is abandoning these asylum seekers in cities, please contact the White House.

Does this money come out of other services?

No.  We continue to provide services to local persons in need and no existing service is being cut or changed with this legislation.

In fact, the city is working to expand our current homeless and community outreach programs.  Working with Bernalillo County and UNM, we just announced plans to extend our shelter to year-round operations, aiding 300 people on average, at a cost of $3.9 million/year.  Adding another 1,000 people needing long-term support per week would quickly double that cost. The city also administers more than $8.4 million in housing and shelter services for homeless year-round. Those services are still needed and will not be impacted by this appropriation. But, failing to provide aid to asylum seekers would overwhelm our current homeless providers.

In addition, Mayor Keller’s FY20 budget (beginning in July) includes a request for more than $2 million in housing vouchers and the City Council just approved $14 million in new homeless services for the bonds that voters get to vote on in November. 

But, if the number of persons abandoned by the federal government continues to increase, they could overburden our current city staff and community organizations. That is why we need to pass new legislation to quickly aid and process asylum seekers to their final destination.

Shouldn’t we help our own residents before helping new arrivals?

Albuquerque has been a crossroads city - for our Native American pueblos, early Spanish settlers and generations of migrants for more than 300 years. 

By receiving asylum seekers into a system designed to provide aid and transportation to their final destination, most asylum seekers only stay in ABQ 2-4 days while making arrangements to get to their final sponsors around the country.

The federal government has made it clear that they intend to continue to abandon asylum seekers in Southwestern cities, instead of doing their job to provide aid and transportation to their final destinations. If we fail to help them to their destinations, this federal policy threatens to overwhelm our homeless and housing resources.

More importantly, New Mexicans were raised to help each other and our city’s residents are living that value every day in their ongoing humanitarian work.

In 2019 the City of Albuquerque provided nearly $10m dollars in emergency shelter and housing vouchers for people experiencing homelessness. The Mayor’s proposed 2020 budget increases funding for housing vouchers and emergency shelter to $15 million. $2 million of the proposed increase is for housing vouchers. $3 million of the proposed increase is to keep the Emergency Housing Center open year round, which is an emergency shelter that serves men, women and families with children. Additionally, the City has proposed $14m for a new 24/7 homeless shelter that will be in front of voters on the November ballot. The funds proposed for assisting asylum seekers would not take away from any of these efforts.

When will the City Council vote on this legislation?

The bill is scheduled for the May 6, 2019 City Council meeting. Meetings occur at 5pm in the City Council chambers of the City-County Building at 1 Civic Plaza.  Persons wishing to sign up for public comment must arrive before 5pm to sign up.