ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A private Christian camp in northern New Mexico is looking for volunteers and donations as it prepares for the potential arrival of immigrant children from the U.S.-Mexico border as federal holding facilities become more crowded.
A page on the Glorieta Camps website states that the organization was asked by the White House and U.S. Health and Human Services Department to house and feed potentially 2,400 unaccompanied children at its property near Santa Fe.
Glorieta Camps executive assistant Josh Nelson said Wednesday that the organization has been talking with federal officials for the last two days and he was unsure when a contract would be finalized. He said the camp is prepared to take children as soon as Thursday but that it could only do so for 60 days to avoid having to cancel its own summer programs.
President Joe Biden is under pressure to address immigration concerns as thousands of children and families have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, packing holding facilities. On Tuesday evening, U.S. Border Patrol agents reported that two young girls from Ecuador were abandoned after being dropped by a smuggler over a 14-foot-high border barrier in New Mexico, just west of El Paso, Texas. The 3- and 5-year-old sisters were unhurt and are now at a holding facility, but authorities called the latest incident appalling.
Convention centers in San Diego and Dallas and even a camp for oil field workers in West Texas have been converted into a temporary housing as the administration scrambles to find more space. In Arizona, advocacy groups have been busing families and single adults to temporary shelters in Tucson and Phoenix where they can wait until being placed with family members in the U.S. or other sponsors.
The Border Patrol is apprehending more children daily than Health and Human Services is placing with sponsors, leading to a severe backlog. The Border Patrol generally is not supposed to detain children for more than three days, but Health and Human Services lacks space.
For the first time Tuesday, the Biden administration allowed journalists from The Associated Press and a crew from CBS inside its main border detention facility for migrant children in Texas. The tour revealed a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 people, including children and families, were crammed into a space intended for 250.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office said Wednesday that it was aware only that the Biden administration was seeking temporary sites for unaccompanied children but didn't have any details or information about where or what facilities were being considered.
Brian Sayler with the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management told The Associated Press last week that the state was in regular communication with U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as federal emergency management and homeland security officials.
“New Mexico is requesting that these federal agencies stand up a coordinated response to address any increase in border activity,” he said at the time, adding that the state also has been talking with local emergency managers and nongovernment groups.
Aaron Morales, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Mexico's senior senator, said it was the office's understanding that the Health and Human Services Department doesn’t have plans to open a shelter in New Mexico at this time.
Glorieta Camps, operated by a Christian faith-based nonprofit called Glorieta 2.0, sits on a 2,400-acre property that is ordinarily wide open for people to communion with nature. Facilities include more than 100 buildings for sleeping, eating and meeting, but there are questions as to what kind of changes would be needed to ensure security of its no-frills conference halls and bunk-bed dorms.
Camp employees and other groups were calling on the public to help provide supplies and were seeking volunteers to help care for the kids. Social media posts and emails were requesting toiletries, bath towels, water bottles and clothes for 13- to 17-year-old boys.
Associated Press writers Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Nomaan Merchant in Houston contributed to this report.