New Mexico has enjoyed a rare moment in the national spotlight as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham broke through walls both literal and metaphorical in a recent viral campaign ad she released earlier this month, shortly after announcing she would withdraw most of the National Guard troops ordered to the border by President Donald Trump last year.
What was important about this moment for New Mexicans, especially those of us who call the border region home, is that the governor simultaneously repudiated the fear-mongering and lies that Trump and his administration propagate about the border, while reasserting real New Mexican values of caring for our families and building stronger communities.
What a breath of fresh air.
Those of us who live, work and raise our families in the border region are tired of being pawns in Washington, D.C.’s political games. For decades we have borne the brunt of each successive administration’s so-called “border security” policies. We are the ones who have to pass through military-style checkpoints every day just to get to work and go to school. We are the ones who live with the constant fear of harassment and discrimination at the hands of the more than 20,000 armed federal agents who saturate our communities. It is our ranches and wildlands that distant politicians want to steal for the construction of their political props.
Then, in April of last year, Trump ordered military units to deploy to our border communities — communities that consistently rank among the safest in the country — as if we were some kind of war zone. This was an insult to those of us in the border region who did not ask for, want or need this deployment, but also a grave misuse of the men and women in our National Guard who trust our leaders not to abuse their service for personal political gain. Thankfully, our governor has used her authority to end this charade and reunite these guardsmen with their families.
This is a welcome sign that New Mexico’s leadership is finally getting back in step with real New Mexicans’ priorities. A recent poll conducted by Latino Decisions found that 72 percent of registered voters in New Mexico list economic development or improving public education as their top concerns, with only 13 percent saying that border security and immigration enforcement was the most urgent issue facing New Mexico. Likewise, the survey revealed that a strong majority of registered voters agree that our limited state and local law enforcement resources should not be spent doing the job of federal immigration agents. New Mexicans recognize that when we end up spending taxpayer dollars targeting and separating immigrant families who are part of our community, we have less resources to invest in our schools, public safety services or infrastructure.
Under this new administration, New Mexico has a golden opportunity to recenter the actual priorities and needs of its people. With the removal of troops from our streets and a public commitment to breaking down economic and educational barriers that prevent many of our families from reaching their full potential, Lujan Grisham has made an excellent first step. Hopefully we will continue to see this kind of bold leadership in the current legislative session and throughout the rest of her term.
This article was originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican.