New Mexico on cartels’ radar as Texas cracks down on migration, GOP lawmakers say

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) -- Some Republican state senators from New Mexico have returned from the U.S.-Mexico border with demands for the governor to address the "escalating crisis," saying that Texas' crackdown on migration has forced it to their state.

In a letter to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the 13 senators urged her to call for a special session to secure the southern border.

Among the demands are committing state resources and funding to improve surveillance and deploying the National Guard.

"Several of us have visited the border and witnessed firsthand the impacts of this crisis on our local communities and state," said the letter. "The unchecked flow of illegal immigration is compromising our national security and exposing our constituents to heightened criminal activity, including human trafficking, drug trafficking, violent crime, and damage to private property. This has caused considerable strains on local resources and frankly, the situation is becoming altogether unmanageable."

Republican state Sens. Crystal Diamond Brantley, left and Steven McCutcheon

The senators provided data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that shows a spike in migrant encounters during every year that President Joe Biden has been in office. The data says migrant encounters rose from 125,628 in Fiscal Year 2021 to 170,846 in FY23 in New Mexico.

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The entire New Mexico border with Mexico is part of the Border Patrol's El Paso Sector, which stretches from the New Mexico-Arizona state lines to the edge of Husdspedth County, Texas, and includes all of El Paso County, Texas. CBP data for the El Paso Sector shows 225,565 illegal crossings between ports of entry in Fiscal Year 2023, which ended on Sept. 30, 2023. Border agents in the El Paso Sector have encountered 119,905 migrants so far this fiscal year.

The senators believe illegal crossings will eclipse those of last year without action by the state.

"Given the recent crackdown by Texas on illegal crossings, the cartels are now seeking alternative routes, and New Mexico is on their radar," the senators wrote.

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According to a news release, the letter was sent after a recent visit by state Sens. Crystal Diamond Brantley and Steven McCutcheon to the U.S.-Mexico Border in Luna County. The lawmakers said they had sent a separate letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas demanding federal action.

"We cannot ignore the fact that we have an unprecedented public safety crisis unraveling at our southern border," said McCutcheon, who represents Carlsbad in Sante Fe. "The Biden administration and the governor have allowed New Mexico to become a corridor for illegal activity, as demonstrated by the recent surge of fentanyl smuggling and human trafficking plaguing our communities. My constituents are demanding action and I urge the governor to stop playing politics and make border security a high priority moving forward."

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The senators want Lujan Grisham to call for a Special Session of the Legislature and support legislation that bans sanctuary cities in New Mexico and makes drug dealers who supply individuals with fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances eligible for a murder charge if consumption of the drug results in death.

The governor is also being asked to repair what they call "dilapidated and compromised" areas of the border fence as well as improve communications infrastructure.

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The senators also noted that the governors of Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia, have deployed their National Guard members to help at the southern border, adding that it's time for New Mexico to send its National Guard to the border, too.

"We have more pressing issues than panhandling, and if the Governor calls us into Special Session at a taxpayer expense of $50,000 per day, we should actually do something to improve public safety," said Brantley, of Elephant Butte. "The organized criminal activity at our border compromises the safety and security of every New Mexican, and I refuse to sit back and wait for the inept politicians in Washington D.C. to fix Biden's border crisis. The Executive and Legislature have tools at our disposal, and it's time we get to work and protect those we swore to serve."

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In a statement to Border Report, Lujan Grisham said beefing up border security requires additional funding from Congress, adding that the federal government is responsible for handling immigration and border security.

“While I share my Republican colleagues' concern about border security, calling a special session doesn't give me federal authority over the border," Lujan Grisham said. "I urge Republicans in the New Mexico Legislature to write a letter to their GOP counterparts in the U.S. House and ask them to approve the carefully negotiated border security plan that remains on the table in Congress."

Lujan Grisham also said that Texas' response at the border has worsened matters.

"Gov. Greg Abbott’s hardline tactics and exorbitant spending of state tax dollars at the Texas-Mexico border has made a bad situation worse for both migrants and Texas border residents and embroiled the State of Texas in litigation," she said. "New Mexico will work with the Biden Administration and members of both parties in Congress to improve border security in accordance with federal law."

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