Just when Southwest border communities most needed a few champions in their corner, NM Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich stepped forward and answered the call. This week they rejected two immigration proposals in Congress that would have squandered $25 billion to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Our senators understand that Dreamers’ lives cannot be ransomed in a cynical tradeoff for President Trump’s wasteful, damaging wall. We need a permanent solution for immigrant youth that does not sacrifice the interests of border communities.
President Trump put Dreamers in this predicament by his cruel and unnecessary termination of the DACA program. Now, the president and his hard-liner allies are trying to use Dreamers’ lives as bargaining chips, trading their precarious status to enact anti-immigrant policies that would harm millions of lives and families.
This is a made-up crisis, and the primary responsibility for getting out of it is President Trump’s and his party’s. Yet there are some Democrats from non-border states, unfamiliar with our natural treasures and unaffected by intrusive interior Border Patrol checkpoints, who seem ready to give way on funding the border wall.
That is a mistake.
A border wall would injure our country’s relationship with our neighbors to the south and fuel racist and xenophobic sentiments. It would also uproot families from their land through private property seizures, cause excess flooding, permanently harm the environment, and draw resources away from urgently needed infrastructure – including schools, roads and health clinics. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security needs to waive dozens of applicable laws to enable its wall building: statutory protections enjoyed elsewhere in the country are swept aside without any assessment of impact or cost-benefit analysis.
President Trump’s border wall would be an affront to American values, a $25 billion monument to ego and intolerance that will harm the daily lives millions of borderland residents whose voices and lives have not been sufficiently heard in this policy debate.
The views of New Mexicans, as well as the 15 million people living in borderlands across the country must be heard. Already, 30 border cities, counties and tribal governments across America have passed resolutions against building more walls. These locations already know the costs and consequences of further militarizing the border.
Dreamers in New Mexico and across the country have taken the principled stance of refusing to trade others’ futures for their own. They will not sacrifice their parents to Trump’s deportation force, nor their border-resident neighbors to federal militarization and environmental damage.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the country’s largest law enforcement agency, urgently needs oversight and accountability reforms like body-worn cameras, rescue beacons and integrity investigators, not tens of billions to build Trump’s monument to fear and hate and to add agents to his deportation force.
Sens. Udall and Heinrich know the border. They understand the impacts of past thoughtless sacrifices of New Mexicans’ quality of life in the false name of border security. Large-scale border-barrier construction is happening right now in Santa Teresa, and Trump’s bulldozers are waiting to scar other borderlands.
Thank you Sens. Udall and Heinrich for delivering the message that New Mexicans want the rest of Congress to hear: We will not bargain away Dreamers’ principles or the rights of our border communities.
Originally published in the Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, and Las Cruces Sun-News