Sunland Park reacts to Trump's call for troops on border
Kai Porter and Kassi Nelson
April 05, 2018 06:20 PM
SUNLAND PARK, N.M. -- President Donald Trump said Thursday he wants between 2,000 and 4,000 National Guard troops on the border with Mexico. Trump claims he wants the troops along the border because the situation has reached a point of crisis, but Sunland Park city officials paint a different picture.
About 17,000 people call Sunland Park home. Ernie Zapien grew up there and remembers when this border fence didn't exist.
"You can look around and there’s really nothing happening out here," he said.
Despite the city being right along the border, Police Chief Javier Guerra said his city is one of the safest cities in the state. He said they haven't had any major crime problems stemming from drug smuggling or people illegally crossing the border.
Guerra said he has 22 police officers on his force that do a good job of keeping the city safe. Then there's the border fence that’s already up and Border Patrol in the area already does a good job of stopping that activity before it reaches the city.
"They've done a very good job," he said. "Therefore if anyone was going to get past them, we haven’t encountered any type of a situation that we've gotten suspected murderers or thieves or nothing like that. I just can’t stress to you how safe this city really is you go outside and you see the citizens walking around all hours of the day and night because they feel safe."
Zapien agreed, and he does not support Trump's plan to call in thousands of National Guard troops.
"It would just be a waste of money for sending troops out here for what," he said.
As for what impact National Guard troops will have in the community, Sunland Park City Manager Julia Brown said officials don't want residents to be alarmed by their presence.
"What we all need to remember is that, just like the rest of us, they’re residents of New Mexico," she said. "Some of them originally came from Mexico. Many of them still have family members living in Mexico, and they are simply trying to help to make sure that the residents of this area are safe and secure."
Gov. Susana Martinez would be the one to deploy National Guard troops on the border here in New Mexico. Her office released a statement in support of Trump's announcement Wednesday, saying in part “It's important to remember that we would not be in this situation to begin with if Congress would act on comprehensive immigration reform – which the governor has often said should make border security a top priority.”
On Thursday, Martinez spokesperson Mike Lonergan sent this statement:
We cannot allow criminal activity to come across the border where it will only increase crime in New Mexico’s communities. Governor Martinez joined a call with federal leaders and other border governors today to discuss efforts to better secure our border and to help ensure New Mexicans are safe. The Governor expressed her support for having National Guardsman and women serve in a support role to Border Patrol in New Mexico in order to help combat illegal crossings and the transportation of narcotics, both of which are drastically increasing at the border. The Governor’s administration will work with the federal government in the next weeks to determine levels of support and specific tasks for New Mexico guardsman and women.
Two of New Mexico's three members in the U.S. House of Representatives said they have major concerns with the president's plans, including the fact they say Congress wasn't given any notice.
"I think there's a big concern across America that I've heard from many people, including our colleagues on the border about militarizing the border," said Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who represented the Third Congressional District in northern New Mexico. "And that's essentially what President Trump is doing."
"What happens to New Mexicans in our wildfire and forest fire seasons? Why aren't we deploying the National Guard to finish the work in Puerto Rico?" said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, another House Democrat in New Mexico's First Congressional District. "So I'm not seeing how this fits in some of our national security natural disaster initiatives or efforts, and I'm concerned about the timing and real purpose of this move."
Lujan Grisham and loan were at a chamber luncheon in Albuquerque. Republican Rep. Steve Pearce from the southern New Mexico district was there as well but had to leave right away. He sent a statement calling the president's plan "a short-term strategy." He said a need a long-term solution is necessary.
"Bush & Obama found it necessary to deploy the National Guard to temporarily secure the border @POTUS is again having to use this short term strategy. We need a long term solution for the safety of our nation. Both parties must unite to fix our broken immigration system," Pearce wrote on Twitter.
Kai Porter and Kassi Nelson
Updated: April 05, 2018 06:20 PM
Created: April 05, 2018 05:20 PM
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