NM Glorieta Camps might house up to 2,400 migrant youth

The operators of an adventure retreat in Glorieta were preparing Tuesday for the potential arrival this week of an influx of immigrant children and youth in need of temporary housing.

According to a volunteer page on the Glorieta Camps website, the organization was asked by the White House and Health and Human Services Department to “house and feed potentially 2400 unaccompanied children.”

Josh Nelson, an executive assistant for Glorieta Camps, said he expected the organization to issue a news release regarding a federal contract for the camp to house the children, but he was unsure when the deal would be finalized. As of late Tuesday night, the camp had not issued the statement.

Still, camp employees and representatives of other organizations were calling on the public to help provide supplies and were seeking some 400 volunteers to help care for the kids.

A number of Facebook posts were requesting toiletries, bath towels, water bottles and clothes for 13- to 17-year-old boys.

The Hire Firm, a staffing agency in Northern New Mexico, also was seeking to fill 60 paid positions at the camp for the temporary initiative. According to job postings, people helping with food preparation, kitchen cleaning and housekeepers, and those working directly with the kids, would earn $20 an hour.

Glorieta Camps, operated by a Christian faith-based nonprofit called Glorieta 2.0, sits on a 2,400-acre property south of Santa Fe. It offers a variety of lodging options for families and kids, including hotel-style rooms with full private bathrooms for families and bunk-style dorms with in-room sinks and shared bathrooms.

The retreat was founded in 1952 as the Glorieta Baptist Assembly but was purchased by Glorieta 2.0 in 2013 for use as a Christian adventure camp for families, groups and kids. It also has offered summer camps for local children. Its facilities include a dining hall, a coffee shop, courts, trails, game fields, a pond for water sports, large communal areas and outdoor patios.

The potential housing program at Glorieta Camps comes amid a wave of immigrant kids crossing the border following new policies introduced by the Biden administration.

The Washington Post reported March 10 that more than 8,500 unaccompanied immigrant children and teens were housed in Department of Health and Human Services shelters, and a record-setting 3,500 children were backlogged at a Border Patrol station.

The influx of migrant youth is not uncommon, said Allegra Love, a Santa Fe immigration attorney specializing in border issues since 2014.

Love, who previously served as executive director of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, said the immigration process for unaccompanied immigrant youth is “extremely complicated.”

As a result of the 2018 Flores Settlement Agreement, all unaccompanied immigrant children must be held in a nonsecure, licensed facility within three to five days of apprehension. The settlement allows 20 days in the case of a surge, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

Immigrant children arriving at the borders of Mexico are first under the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, which must release them within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services. That agency is tasked with finding the best care for them until their case is resolved.

“If you look at unaccompanied children throughout the last decade, this is high, but it’s not insane,” Love said of the current wave of immigrants. “To people like me, who work in the field, this is actually like a predictable flow.”

Love speculated a high number of kids being housed at a facility like Glorieta Camps is a way for the federal agencies to ensure kids are entering Health and Human Services custody in the correct legal time frame.

“The kids we’re moving right now are either clearing space from the temporary shelters that are already opened, and they’re clearing them out to make space for incoming kids. Or these are kids coming directly out of Customs and Border [Protection] custody,” Love said.

She said emergency housing contracts such as the one that could be in the works at Glorieta Camps are a result of the federal government’s “failure to set up preparations” for a predictable flow of immigrants — not a partisan issue.

“This is history repeating itself, repeating itself, repeating itself,” she said. “And we’re not taking a holistic-like responsibility and approach to solving it, which is why we keep finding herself here no matter who is president.”

By Victoria Traxler vtraxler@sfnewmexican.com