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New Hispanic leader needed

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Immigration reform will factor into upcoming elections

By Sherry Robinson

Redistricting never turns out how you think it will, warned Michael Davis, vice president of political programs for the Washington D.C.-based Business and Industry PAC.
One demographic could trump lines drawn on a map, here and across the nation – immigration reform.
“Republicans are in trouble with Hispanics,” Davis said, and in the last five years, Hispanics have outpaced every other group in population growth – by large margins. “Every year for the next 20 years, there will be 500,000 new Hispanic voters turning 18. It will play a large, deciding vote in elections.”  
In New Mexico that increase was 16 percent and in Texas, 20 percent. Davis predicts Texas will be a blue state by 2020.
When Republicans talk about immigration reform, “the tone is extremely harsh, and it’s driving away Hispanics,” Davis said. Immigration reform “must stop being a litmus test” for candidates, and that requires a solution.
Davis was speaking at an event sponsored by The New Mexico Prosperity Project, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit collaborative effort of the state’s business community” to inform businesses and their employees about issues that affect the economy and business climate because employees who understand the economic impacts of public policy are more likely to vote.
A look at its supporters is instructive. T. Greg Merrion, of Merrion Oil & Gas in Farmington, is chairman.
The steering committee includes Rance Miles, Select Milk Producers, Artesia; George M. Yates, HEYCO,  Roswell and  Carol Wight, New Mexico Restaurant Association,
Also,  Dennis Kinsey, Yates Petroleum, Artesia; Steve Henke, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association; Jeff Parker, Manpower Inc., Albuquerque; and Doug Turner, DW Turner, Albuquerque.
The Prosperity Project has the usual concerns, like taxes, health care, labor, and regulation.
Immigration reform isn’t on the list, but one of the corporate partners is Bueno Foods, whose vice president, Gene Baca, is pushing federal reform.
Baca, who is also president of the New Mexico Chile Association, has said the consequences of our broken immigration system will fall on everyone.
In an op-ed article last year, he articulated the sentiments of many: “New Mexicans always have been welcoming to immigrants from our southern neighbor …  however welcoming we are, we would still like to see all people living in New Mexico counted, taxed and in this country legally.”
The current system creates fear and divisiveness, and employers fear losing trained employees or getting in trouble for unknowingly hiring an undocumented worker.  
Some employers, especially in agriculture, can’t get by without Mexican workers and want a way to hire them legally.
A year ago a coalition of business groups, which included the Restaurant Association and the Dairy Producers of New Mexico, got on the reform bandwagon.
The New Mexico Employers for Immigration Reform is an affiliate of the national group, ImmigrationWorks.
Its goal is “to bring the U.S.’s annual legal intake of foreign workers more realistically into line with the economy’s need for foreign labor.”
Despite the recession, the group says, “foreign workers (are) an essential ingredient of American prosperity.”
Reform goes hand in hand with tougher enforcement and border security, the coalition says, as well as a reliable way for employers to verify IDs.
They want a remedy for the 12 million here illegally but find amnesty and mass deportation equally unacceptable. And they insist immigration reform is the federal government’s job, not the state’s.
What both parties could use, Davis said, is a new Hispanic political leader, and Gov. Susana Martinez is on the radar.
I’m not sure she can pass the immigration litmus test.
During her campaign, Martinez talked about the rule of law and acknowledged that “we are a nation of immigrants,” but didn’t endorse reform.
Since then she’s tried to eliminate driver’s licenses for illegals and spent $49,000 on a chicken-herding exercise to verify their addresses.
In some quarters, that might seem harsh.

Sherry Robinson
© New Mexico News
Services 2011