Immigration divides Latina governor and governor-elect
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Democratic governor-elect signaled a new approach to border security and immigration that emphasizes humanitarian concerns and skepticism of the White House, as the reins of state government pass from one Latina governor to another.
U.S. Congresswoman and Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday that she is worried about the well-being of women and children in migrant caravans approaching the U.S. from Mexico and may reconsider the state's decision to deploy local National Guard troops to the border.
"I worry about the women and children in that caravan," said Lujan Grisham, who won Tuesday's election in a landslide against GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in April deployed fewer than 200 troops to the state's border with Mexico at President Donald Trump's request. That was before concerns about the migrant caravan prompted a new federal deployment of more than 5,000 troops.
The Trump administration is warning that the caravans will further overwhelm asylum systems. On Friday, the president ordered that anyone who enters the U.S. illegally from Mexico by going around official border crossings is ineligible for asylum.
Lujan Grisham, who will become one of four border governors come Jan. 1, suggested the U.S. should be prepared to offer humanitarian support and asylum application services for migrants, regardless of where they arrive.
She expressed skepticism of the Trump administration's portrayal of immigration and border security situations.
"I have not been confident about the president's or Homeland Security's information, I haven't found it credible — in many details, in many ways," Lujan Grisham said. "If I can't get information in January that shifts my thinking, particularly with assignment of troops on the border, I would likely reconsider the National Guard being on the border."
The comments were made at a news conference in the state Capitol as Martinez, who leaves office at the end of the year based on term limitations, and Lujan Grisham discussed details of the transition of power.
In a Friday morning television interview, Lujan Grisham attributed her election victory to her campaign's focus on a much different subject: a proposed overhaul of the state's troubled public education system, including higher pay for teachers and funding for universal access to preschool.
New Mexico, a former Spanish colony with an uninterrupted history of Hispanics in politics, is marking an unprecedented transition between two Latina governors — with divergent political ideologies on major issues.
Martinez won office in 2010 and re-election in 2014 as the nation's only Latina governor and took issue with Trump's characterization of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists when he was running for president. She and the president have since reconciled.
Lujan Grisham is a staunch critic of Trump's approach to immigration, including his expansion of the border wall, and has promised to pursue major changes from Martinez's approach to teacher evaluations, state investments, renewable energy, gun control, marijuana regulation and more.