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GOP candidate pledges to create border task force if elected governor in New Mexico

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PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

A Republican candidate for governor of New Mexico says that if elected, he will create a border task force to tackle illegal immigration.

Mark Ronchetti, a former meteorologist at KRQE-TV, told Fox News that he intends to establish a "border enforcement force" comprised of 150 officers that will secure the border since the federal government has failed to do so.

"We're going to create that border enforcement force that will do two things," Ronchetti said in an interview. "Number one, they're going to go after the central flow in the state, and then number two, going to go after human trafficking here."

"We're 600 border agents short in New Mexico in our sector of the border right now," he added.

The Republican candidate warned that the Biden administration's plans to end a Trump-era pandemic order restricting migration will lead to a surge of illegal immigration bringing drugs and violent crime into New Mexico.

The policy, known as Title 42, requires migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait outside the country for their applications to be processed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that the order will expire on May 23, an action opposed by congressional Republicans.

"Title 42 helped try to keep things somewhat under control here during the end of the Trump administration and through the beginning of the Biden administration," Ronchetti said. "But now what we're seeing is, with the Biden administration trying to roll that back, there's real concern here that we're going to see more chaos on a border that is already overwhelmed."

Department of Homeland Security officials say that border apprehensions could rise by more than 18,000 per day if the Title 42 order is rescinded. DHS has already reported more than 2 million border apprehensions for 2021 and more than 900,000 encounters this year.

"If you talked to ranchers on the border here in New Mexico, they'll tell you it's a nightly occurrence here that they're dealing with people flowing through and over their property, leaving things behind," Ronchetti said.

The candidate told Fox News drug trafficking over the border has caused violent crime to explode in New Mexico.

"We're the second-most violent state in the country," Ronchetti said. "Last year in Albuquerque, we set an all-time record for murders."

Fox News reported that drug overdoses in New Mexico caused 776 deaths in 2020, a 54% increase since 2016, according to the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee. The New Mexico Department of Health says that fentanyl accounted for 33% of those deaths in 2019, while heroin was involved in 51%.

Ronchetti is one of several Republicans seeking to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. According to financial disclosures reported Monday, Ronchetti's campaign brought in more than $2.1 million since October, more than twice as much raised by any other GOP candidate in the same period.

The primary election is June 7, and absentee balloting begins May 10.

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