Experience any southern New Mexico community and you’ll undoubtedly see the positive impact that immigrants have had on our communities – rural and urban – and our state.
You can’t separate the immigrant experience from nearly any industry that makes this part of our state function. And that’s a good thing.
It’s deeply disturbing, but unsurprising, that U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell’s anti-immigrant platform has become the centerpiece of her time serving as our federal representative. What’s especially disturbing is she consistently implies all southern New Mexicans share her Trumpian … views on immigration and people of color.
We certainly don’t, and neither do many of the people who grew up here and have called the borderlands their home for generations.
Let’s take migrant farm workers, for example – the folks who power southern New Mexico’s agricultural industry. Daily haul and seasonal workers work tirelessly to harvest our state and nation’s supply of chile and onions – a thankless, low-wage, black market job Herrell must see if she’s driving the rural roads of Doña Ana and Luna counties. If Herrell has been on Highway 418 just west of Deming, or Engler Road in Las Cruces, she’s seen firsthand the impact of migrant workers but chooses to ignore it.
In fact, the Johnson family from Columbus, N.M., whom Herrell visits often to shoot campaign videos and advocate for a border wall, themselves have admitted to using migrant farm workers to build their agricultural business – hypocritical much?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, the labor force participation rate of foreign-born adults was 65.7%, higher than the 62.3% rate for the native born. Some 27.2 million foreign-born adults, 63.4% of all foreign-born adults, were employed that year, compared to 59.8% of native-born adults. In addition to contributing to the workforce, New American Economy reports immigrants contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes and almost $224 billion in federal taxes.
Migrant families, values, culture and food extend far beyond the fields and into our homes, history, language, way of life and our identity. Our connection to our southern neighbors makes us who we are. Tourists visit Old Mesilla, one of the last remaining Mexican villages before the Gadsden Purchase, because of its rich Mexican history, architecture, food and culture. The same goes for Columbus, where the Columbus Cabalgata and Fiesta de Amistad draw hundreds of horseback riders from deep Mexico to the border town to join riders from the southwestern United States in a show of unity on the eve of the anniversary of Pancho Villa’s raid on the town of Columbus.
And in every facet of our local economies, communities and governments, the immigrant experience and immigrant history contributes greatly to who we are as a people. The difference between us and Herrell is that we choose to celebrate this unique identity rather than vilify it.
Migration from Mexico into west Texas and southern New Mexico has made us who we are, and it will continue to shape us. Our tios and tias, aunties and uncles, abuelas and grandmas all have stories about the border that are ripe with injustice, tragedy and loss – a story we hope to rewrite to become, as we’re striving to be, a more perfect union. But we’re being hampered in those efforts by our own federal representative, who instead chooses to paint immigrants as diseased-ridden, criminal individuals who are undeserving of our compassion and asylum.
We respectfully ask that Herrell focus on the issues that matter to most southern New Mexicans: quality and affordable health care, good jobs, affordable child care, housing, economic diversification, climate change and more. When she does, we’ll be the better for it, but we’re not holding our breath.