By Stephanie Maez (Guest Column, Las Cruces Sun News, Sept 7, 2014)
Many of us have been working for comprehensive immigration reform longer than most people have been with their current employer. We do this because we believe in the values that our country stands for, and because we know that immigration reform will in fact strengthen our nation.
We can all agree that the current patchwork of immigration policies and programs do not work. This broken system is one that politicians are unwilling to fix. The lack of will to resolve this issue is making the situation worse by the minute.
What are the facts of the current situation?
First, we know that a mass deportation of millions of people is inhumane and unrealistic. We also condemn detaining refugees and children in modern-day internment camps — a practice we know is currently taking place in our own communities.
Another reality is that while our immigration system remains broken, the systems in Central America have been broken for years, creating an environment where gangs recruit children for illicit purposes. Children are running to other countries including ours — and turning themselves in to the first Border Patrol agent they see — begging for a reprieve from the murders, rape, and gang violence that has taken over so many of their countries. These children make up one tenth of 1 percent of all refugees worldwide, yet the only help and protection that Congress has given them is putting them in internment camps disguised as detention centers. Really?
This practice is not a value aligned with our vision for reform.
In fact, one of these detention centers is located here in Artesia, a town in southern New Mexico. Congressman Steve Pearce represents this region of New Mexico in Washington D.C. As a congressman from a border district that is 47 percent Hispanic, one would think that he would be leading the way for a bipartisan solution to fix our broken immigration system — yet Congressman Pearce is a major road block.
Although his rhetoric may be mild, time and again, Congressman Pearce has backed the anti-immigrant efforts put forward by the extreme, and frankly anti-Hispanic, obstructionist members of Congress. Recently, he voted with the minority to defund DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and essentially deport young DREAMers for the second time. Not to mention in his recent radio interview with KKOB he essentially compared the Central American children being detained in Artesia to enemy war combatants. These are the same children that are running from gang warfare in their home countries.
We have been working together across the state along with thousands of families from border communities. It is clear that instead of funding systems for mass detention and deportations and border militarization, our border should be valued as the new Ellis Island. Many of us traveled to Artesia recently to show support for the detained children, because all children deserve to be protected and kept safe. We believe the border enforcement systems must be accountable and embrace values that sustain the American dream; compassion, a fair day in court, civil rights, and checks and balances to law enforcement are principles that we can all embrace.
Bottom-line, there is broad support for real solutions to address our current broken immigration system. However instead of backing a common-sense road map to citizenship in which the rules are clear and fair for everyone — including due process for all families and all workers, Pearce has taken a different approach. This approach includes supporting the extremists in Congress who have refused to even grant a hearing for bipartisan ideas to make our border and immigration system work for our families and our economy. There is simply no time for this paralysis.
NOW is the time for Congressman Steve Pearce to listen to the concerns of the people he represents — whom half are Hispanic — just like the children he is helping detain.