AP NEWS

Decision to move 4-H event from Expo New Mexico angers senators

May 16, 2019

All but one of 16 Republican state senators on Tuesday delivered a letter to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, questioning why a 4-H Club event was moved to Las Cruces following a decision to temporarily house migrants seeking asylum at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque.

The GOP senator whose name doesn’t appear on the letter, Gregg Fulfer of Jal, said he didn’t sign because it didn’t go far enough. Fulfer said he wants asylum-seekers to go “directly to the capital city so our governor can see firsthand that there is a crisis.”

Following Lujan Grisham’s recent announcement that dorms at Expo New Mexico would be used to shelter the migrants, New Mexico State University — which oversees the 4-H program and its annual Horse School — announced the weeklong event, scheduled to begin June 3, would be moved to Las Cruces.

“This last-minute move of the 4-H Horse School has greatly disappointed the students who look forward to going to the ‘big city’ and the beautiful fairgrounds and has created a hardship on New Mexico families participating in that event,” the senators said in their letter to Lujan Grisham.

The senators who signed the letter said they are not opposed to using the dorms to help the asylum-seekers. But they added: “It is concerning that programs that benefit New Mexico’s youth may be disrupted in favor of housing migrant families at the state fairgrounds.”

They wrote that Expo New Mexico has “ample other facilities and grounds that could be used to house asylum seekers without impacting the long-scheduled 4-H event.”

Fulfer on Tuesday released a statement in which he said he preferred all illegal immigrants “go directly to Santa Fe, don’t stop in any of our communities.

“I want the governor to see all the issues up close — issues of possible diseases being spread; issues of illegal drugs; and the issues surrounding all of the manpower that is demanded to handle this influx,” he said in the release.

Illegal immigration, Fulfer continued, “is severely impacting our students’ education, our healthcare system and things are not safe.”

Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor, said the decision to move the 4-H event was not made by the administration but by those involved in 4-H. Expo New Mexico has worked to accommodate events at the fairgrounds as well as the asylum-seekers, he added.

“It’s not an either/or situation,” Stelnicki said. “It’s not as if the governor decided to kick out these kids to make room for the migrants.”

NMSU spokesman Justin Bannister confirmed it was the university that made the decision to move this year’s horse school.

“We worked with the folks at Expo,” he said, “but at the end of the day we made the decision to move it.”

Bannister said he’s not aware of any of the 94 4-H members who had registered for the event canceling over the move.

A flyer for the event says the cost for participants is $250 for the week, including meals, a stall, twice-a-day riding instruction and workshops.

Stelnicki described Fulfer’s statement as “fairly asinine” and bristled at the notion Lujan Grisham had to be shown there is a crisis.

“The governor has visited the border,” he said. “She’s been to the camps where they’re staying. She’s said all along that there is a humanitarian crisis on the border.”

The letter from the 15 senators raised the fear that other events at Expo New Mexico might be canceled because of the asylum-seekers’ presence. Stelnicki said that isn’t the case.

“Expo will be able to do events,” he said, adding that the New Mexico State Fair, which takes place in September, will not be affected.