By MORGAN LEE
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — When migrants overwhelmed cities and shelters in New Mexico in 2019, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham moved several dozen of them by bus from border communities to Denver, where Christian congregations volunteered to provide shelter and aid.
Fast forward to 2022 and there is little, if any, talk of transporting migrants away from the border by Lujan Grisham — or Republican nominee for governor Mark Ronchetti.
Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti declined this week to answer questions about whether they would approve any new efforts to transport migrants from the border region of New Mexico to other states and under what circumstances.
Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, has campaigned on promises to intervene against cross-border smuggling of migrants and illicit drugs by deploying soldiers and police to the state’s border with Mexico. He also has denounced recently enacted laws that provide public benefits to migrants.
Still, that approach steers clear of the controversial campaigns by Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida to ship thousands of immigrants from Texas to Democratic-led states and cities as they campaign for reelection.
“Governors in Texas, Arizona, and Florida are doing everything they can to bring attention to the border crisis created by Joe Biden and made worse by politicians like Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham,” said Ronchetti spokesman Ryan Sabel in an email.
Ronchetti, who lost an open race for U.S. Senate in 2020, campaigned alongside DeSantis at an August rally in Carlsbad.
Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Maddy Hayden described Republican efforts to transport migrants as a distraction.
“Gov. DeSantis is using this opportunity to distract Americans from the fact that his far-right colleagues are trying to pass a national abortion ban, a position he supports,” Hayden said in a statement Tuesday.
New Mexico in 2019 struggled to accommodate a surge in the number of migrants arriving from Central America, as immigration authorities dropped asylum seekers off at small border communities.
The governor’s office at one point paid to bus several dozen migrants to Colorado. The state also sued federal immigration officials, claiming they were shirking their duties. The case was dismissed by a federal judge.
In August of this year alone, U.S. authorities stopped migrants about 29,000 times along the U.S. border near El Paso and New Mexico’s 180-mile (290 kilometer) border with Mexico, amid a surge in immigration from Venezuela.