New Mexico city rejects federal border security grant

New Mexico

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico city has rejected a grant of more than $48,000 that supports cooperation between local law enforcement and federal agents on security efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Las Cruces City Council voted Monday against participation in the federal program known as Operation Stonegarden, citing concerns about its connection to immigration policy and its lax accountability standards, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported .

Police Chief Patrick Gallagher had advocated for the city to accept the grant, saying the money is mostly used for narcotics enforcement and to intercept human traffickers.

The funding has supported operations that resulted in 33 drug seizures since 2015, Gallagher said. Police have made three referrals to U.S. Border Patrol, but those calls were related to criminal activity and not individuals, he said.

The funding has also covered overtime and mileage costs and the purchase of three patrol vehicles, Gallagher said.

Councilor Yvonne Flores raised concerns about the terms of the grant and said the program does not have safeguards against abuse or corruption.

“Throughout the language of these agreements it states, ‘projects, projects, projects,'” Flores said. “There is nothing in there about what the nature of the projects are. It says nothing in there about how the delegation and work is going to be between the state, the county and the city.”

City officials have vowed to find funding elsewhere to replace the federal dollars being lost.

“I don’t want to be tied to this federal grant,” Councilor Gabriel Vasquez said. “I think we have enough money in our operational budget to support a $48,000 increase that pays for the same thing —overtime and mileage — that allows you to continue these operations.”

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com

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