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Bill would bar border wall from state land

In New Mexico’s remote and sparsely populated Bootheel, the Mexican border is marked by a barbed-wire fence. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A legislative proposal introduced Monday would prohibit New Mexico from providing state land for the construction of the border wall sought by President Trump.

The two-page bill would also prohibit the use of other state resources for construction of the wall, or any similar barrier, along the Mexican border.

State Rep. Angelica Rubio, a Las Cruces Democrat and sponsor of House Bill 287, said a wall would be expensive and interfere with the movement of wildlife – without actually improving public safety, as its supporters say it would.

“I think people who are trying to make decisions about our region should visit my home,” Rubio said. What supporters believe about the wall “is not true.”

Her proposal would affect about 22 miles of state land along New Mexico’s border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. Altogether, New Mexico shares about 160 miles of border with Mexico.

House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said the proposal could have unintended consequences.

“We are a state so reliant on federal funding,” he said, “I would at least be reluctant to poke this president in the eye.”

New Mexico is home to two national laboratories, three Air Force bases and more than a dozen national monuments, parks and trails.

The state has been among those hit hardest by the partial federal shutdown, observers say, as Republican President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress remain at odds over whether to fund a border wall. Building the wall was a centerpiece of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Rubio said she and her parents grew up in the borderlands.

“It has always been a binational community where we have experienced both sides of what it be means to be Mexican and what it means to be American,” she said in an interview. “If anything, the wall – it’s a metaphor for dividing two communities that have essentially survived and been a part of something that, in my opinion, has been really beautiful.”

Rubio co-sponsored a similar bill in 2017. It cleared a House committee but wasn’t acted on by the full House before the end of the session.

The prohibition on the use of state land for a border wall would apply to property owned or held in trust by the state. The ban on using state resources would bar the state from awarding or renewing contracts to companies that are providing goods or services to the federal government for construction of the wall.

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