SANTA FE (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez is blaming President Barack Obama and Congress for the surge in Central American immigrants attempting to enter the country illegally.
The nation’s only Latina governor said in a statement Tuesday the latest wave is a result of mixed signals from federal authorities and “a direct failure of gridlocked Washington lawmakers and President Obama.”
“Children, no matter where they come from, are not political footballs. Immigrants flood across the border — or parents drop their children there —expecting the federal government to just throw up its hands and let them in,” said Martinez, a Republican. “That’s not an immigration policy — that’s a failure of leadership.”
A spokesman for Martinez also said she has spoken with officials from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to express her concerns over security issues involving a temporary detention center in southeastern New Mexico.
Her comments come after immigration authorities opened Artesia’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center as a detention center for around 700 Central American women and children.
The three barracks at the Artesia site will hold people as they await deportation or seek asylum amid an influx of women and children fleeing gang violence and poverty in Central America.
But the opening of the center has sparked anger from some area residents over safety and health concerns.
A rising star within the GOP, Martinez has told her party in the past to tone down its rhetoric around immigration. She is leading an effort in the Republican Party to recruit more Hispanic and African Americans to run for office.
Yet Martinez has drawn criticism from immigrant-advocacy groups of her own policies in New Mexico — especially her push to repeal the law that allows immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally to obtain state driver’s licenses.
On Wednesday, a coalition of immigrant-rights advocacy groups announced it was suing the federal government over accusations that few minors have legal representation during deportation proceedings.