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New Mexico communities grapple with migrant surge

Elected leaders in New Mexico's most populous county on Friday pledged $100,000 in behavioral health tax revenues to help asylum-seekers as officials in southern New Mexico sought more volunteers to help with the ongoing surge of migrants.

More than 100 migrants were released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Las Cruces on Friday, adding to the growing strain on resources in that border community.

Meanwhile, another 500 migrants were taken into custody in less than 24 hours along the border in southern New Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol says a group of 218 migrants from Central America was spotted at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry after midnight Thursday. A second group of 302 people was reported before midnight just east of Mount Cristo Rey near Sunland Park.

Officials there have put out a call, saying the need for fresh volunteers and donations was urgent.

Battalion Chief Michael Daniels with the Las Cruces Fire Department, who is leading the Dona Ana County/City of Las Cruces Emergency Operations Center, said the drop-offs by federal authorities have been continuous and the numbers are increasing.

"We're at the saturation point where providing ongoing services at current levels is becoming unsustainable, especially with our exhausted human resources," he said, noting that many volunteers are working up to 16-hour days without relief.

In less than a month's time, about 4,200 migrants have been served in Las Cruces.

More than 2,200 have been sent further north to Albuquerque, where faith-based groups and other organizations have scrambled to host and feed the migrants for a couple days before they leave to meet sponsors elsewhere in the U.S.

Federal officials announced earlier this week that the number of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border has topped 100,000 for the second month in a row.

Homeland Security figures show there were 109,144 migrants encountered in April, the highest since 2007. That included more than 58,000 migrant parents and children and 8,800 unaccompanied children.

Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost told members of Congress on Wednesday that apprehension numbers were "off the charts," and she has had to divert agents to care for children.

In Bernalillo County, officials plan to use money collected from a behavioral health care tax approved by voters in 2014 to fund services, classes and resources for young migrants and their parents. The county brings in about $21 million a year from the tax, which is meant to pay for a host of programs for residents dealing with mental illness.

Under the plan, local nonprofit PB&J Family Services will work with the migrants under an expanded contract funded by the $100,000 allocation.

Earlier this week, the Albuquerque City Council approved $250,000 to help migrants passing through the city. That funding will go toward grants and contracts with the groups that are providing temporary housing and food.

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