ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico - The state of New Mexico is suing the Trump administration over its quick-release asylum practices for immigrants, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Monday afternoon.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, seeks to halt what it calls the Trump administration's "indiscriminate practice of releasing migrants in communities in the state's borderland area," which the governor said is in violation of the federal government's own "safe release" policy.
The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted late Monday.
Under the "safe release" policy, asylum-seeking individuals were provided assistance in reaching their final destinations while waiting for their claims to be processed. The lawsuit alleges the "sudden and unlawful abandonment of this policy was done without notice or opportunity for input by affected jurisdictions."
That federal program was canceled in October 2018 amid a tide of migration from Central America into the United States. Asylum seekers typically are released almost immediately, while New Mexico cities including Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Deming have borne some of the brunt.
The lawsuit also seeks reimbursement for the humanitarian costs incurred by the state to shelter migrants temporarily as a result of what it calls the federal government's "derogation of duty to administer this country's immigration system and claims of asylum."
New Mexico was joined in lawsuit by the city of Albuquerque as a co-plaintiff.
Grisham contends the administration's practices are "leaving vulnerable individuals and families without assistance and burdening local governments as well as nonprofit organizations."
Since April, about 9,000 asylum seekers have been left in Las Cruces, a city of about 100,000 residents, the lawsuit estimates. It says that Deming, population 14,000, has received about 4,700 migrants.
Albuquerque, located about 250 miles north of ports of entry with Mexico at El Paso, Texas receives about 150 to 250 asylum seekers a week. The city has set aside $250,000 for its humanitarian efforts.
The state has paid out $750,000 in emergency grants to local governments to offset spending as a result of the change in federal asylum practices, while mobilizing employees from several state agencies.
The Democratic governor said asylum seekers have been left to fend for themselves in border-adjacent New Mexico communities.
"The Trump administration has consistently and flagrantly failed in its response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis at our southern border as well as in addressing legitimate border security concerns," Grisham said. "The president has shown time and again he is interested only in demonizing the vulnerable people who arrive at our border, stoking unfounded fears about national security while taking no action to substantively and proactively protect immigrants and our southern border communities from human- and drug-trafficking."
It's a first-of-its-kind lawsuit from a state seeking to stem the quick release of asylum seeking migrants into local communities and claim reimbursement for humanitarian efforts to shelter migrants temporarily.
It resembles a suit filed in California by San Diego County against the Trump Administration in April. That suit is still pending.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)