Lawmakers exploit immigrants for political gain

One of the most complex issues New Mexicans face is the ongoing situation at our southern border. The op-ed (July 16) by state Rep. Angelica Rubio, state Sen. Carrie Hamblen and Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez ignores this complexity and attacks those who disagree with their partisan worldview for political gain. This is not helpful to the open dialogue we need in order to find policy solutions necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods – on all sides – affected by an often dangerous and unsecured border.

The U.S. is a land of opportunity. That opportunity is founded upon laws that protect the rights of individual property from theft and from expropriation by corrupt government officials. These protections, which do not exist in many developing nations, allow people to accumulate wealth and provide for their families: a fundamental reason why so many from Latin America immigrate here.

Some arrive legally. Others do not. Those who don’t are often exploited by murderous drug cartels that charge extortionist fees to cross. Women are raped along the way, and children are forced into human sex trafficking. Many immigrants are abandoned or die of thirst in 100-degree heat. Rubio, Hamblen and Vasquez choose to ignore these real-life stories of injustice, tragedy and loss.

On the northern side of the border, farmers and ranchers must deal with damage to animals and property they need for their livelihoods, damage caused by those trespassing. On a larger scale, both legal immigrants and American-born workers are priced out by black market labor; the direct and indirect strains on the social safety net are legitimate concerns that must be addressed. But for decades, politicians have used these people as a wedge issue to raise campaign cash and get reelected.

Rubio and company’s op-ed does not even take a stand on what their policy proposals would be – though they hint it would be some kind of open-borders approach beloved by their radical supporters. Instead of offering ideas or solutions, they play on our emotions and focus on tax revenues and cheap labor.

The real point of their op-ed is plainly political: To win the next 2nd District congressional race by charging the incumbent with racism – without providing evidence. They accuse the current U.S. representative of sponsoring anti-immigrant legislation that vilifies people of color. They imply this as a matter of fact. But reading the bills they allude to tells a completely different story.

H.R. 3504 would require the secretary of Homeland Security to conduct criminal background checks before releasing from custody those who entered the country unlawfully. H.R. 471 would prevent the secretary of Health and Human Services from removing or lessening COVID-19 testing and quarantine procedures at the border. One does not have to agree with these policies, but they hardly seem unreasonable, let alone racist. But that is what a smear campaign is – hyperbolic unfounded hit pieces targeting voters that have not had a chance to learn about common-sense legislation that bolsters our border security.

These politicians literally claim to be striving toward a more perfect union. But that effort is at odds with their rhetoric that seeks to divide us along racial lines. Most New Mexicans are sick and tired of their identity politics, especially when it only keeps us from coming together as Americans in order to fix a broken immigration system.

Victor Contreras lives in Mesilla. Hispanos Unidos is a nonpartisan grassroots organization.

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