SANTA FE — In his first address to the New Mexico Legislature since being elected to the U.S. Senate last fall, Martin Heinrich called Friday for a revised federal immigration system and vowed to fight for funding of the state’s national laboratories.
Heinrich, a Democrat, also said Congress should act to avoid looming federal budget cuts set to take effect next month, saying they would have a “devastating” effect on New Mexico.
“We don’t have to choose between being fiscally responsible and educating our children,” he said. “We must reduce our deficit, but we should do it in a balanced way.”
A former Albuquerque city councilor, Heinrich served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before winning election to the Senate.
In his 20-minute speech, he told lawmakers that ongoing cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory should be a top funding priority for the U.S. Department of Energy and encouraged additional appropriations.
“I think now is the time for us to invest in science and technology. It’s the time to encourage research and development,” said Heinrich, who added that New Mexico is positioned to be at the forefront of such innovation.
Heinrich also touted Gov. Susana Martinez’s decision to expand the state’s Medicaid program to an additional 170,000 New Mexicans, saying the move could create jobs and generate new tax revenue for the state.
Meanwhile, on the subject of immigration reform, Heinrich said Congress must act promptly to fix a “broken” system.
Several ideas to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws have been rolled out since last November’s elections, and Heinrich voiced support for changes similar to those proposed by President Barack Obama.
“Current U.S. policy on undocumented immigration suffers from a major structural flaw,” he said. “There’s a mismatch between our economic realities and our nation’s outdated policies.”
New Mexico’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Tom Udall, is scheduled to address the Legislature on Monday.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal