This story was submitted as a nomination to the Reader’s Digest “Top 50 Nicest Places in America” contest: a crowd-sourced effort to uncover nooks where people are still kind and respectful in an era of cultural and political divides. Be sure and vote for which story you think should be nominated as the top Nicest Place by visiting the Reader’s Digest website.
How would your city respond if 1,600 asylum seekers were sent there? In Las Cruces, they were greeted with food, shelter, and open arms.
In April 2019, the US Customs and Border Protection began dropping off asylum-seekers in Las Cruces, New Mexico: a city of about 100,000 just an hour from the US–Mexico border. Because of “capacity issues,” the U.S. immigration agency said it would be releasing migrants seeking asylum and placing them in New Mexico and El Paso, Texas, according to the Associated Press.
Welcoming more than 1,600 people who show up on your doorstep is not easy, but that’s exactly what Las Cruces did—and they are continuing to do it today.
Steve Ramirez, an employee in the city communications office, said: “Acts of kindness and compassion happen every day in Las Cruces.”
Local churches, like El Calvario and Heart for the World, as well as other community organizations, held donation drives to collect food, clothes, and medical supplies.
Without being asked, community residents began hosting their own clothing and food drives—and even opening up their own homes and businesses to asylum-seekers. Some volunteered at the housing facility themselves; others worked as language interpreters and office workers processing travel documents. Doctors provided medical services and lawyers assisted with legal issues, all free of charge.
For people who know the folks of Las Cruces, this outpouring of kindness won’t come as a surprise.
A 9-year-old boy once held a lemonade stand to raise money for his sick grandfather over spring break. The community rallied behind the family, and surpassed the boy’s goal of $120, raising almost $30,000.
Robert Paquette, a local resident who was homeless as a teenager, has raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for food and clothing for the homeless population in town.
“Las Cruces is the nicest place in America because Las Crucens care to the core about hospitality,” said two residents who nominated the city. “We offer a hand to our neighbors and we live by the mantra ‘mi casa, es su casa.’”
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