Conference reviews immigration mess, ignores Santa Teresa

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By Harold Morgan

The United States has had an immigration policy of some sort since the 1880s, Alan Kraut told the Domenici Policy Conference audience in Las Cruces Sept. 12.
But we have never had immigrant policies that would help immigrants “make the enormous adjustment” of living in a new country. Sweden and Germany have such policies. The United States relies on charities and local government.
Kraut suggests a commission with labor, business and other representatives that would produce a workable figure for annual immigration from a rolling five-year projection of labor needs, plus family members, and an estimate of people fleeing oppression.
Lacking such an institution we get today’s situation that plays on fears and anxieties.
It’s not that present institutions are great, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D. C., think tank. (After Pete Domenici left the Senate, he was a senior fellow at the Center.)
The United States’ border control systems were created when 99 percent of people crossing the border were single Mexican men. Now the traffic is Central American families and their children. The systems are unable to deal quickly with them.
There are no trustworthy central and impartial sources for data and metrics. Thus, “people pick their own facts.” The environment is “harsh, divisive and inaccurate rhetoric,” Brown said, with a huge gap between Democrats and Republicans. Reactions include lawsuits and state and local legislation. Brown worries about “the withering of our federalism.”
This spring a Bipartisan Policy Center affiliate surveyed the nation, examining views and preferences about current immigration policies and future possibilities. Overall, Americans have policy worries other than immigration, something that might surprise the fanatics, demagogues, racists and President Donald Trump.
The survey report said, “Immigration is not the most pressing issue for nine of ten Americans.” Immigration was fifth, tied with gun regulation and behind national security, health care, and jobs and the economy.
Brown believes “Americans actually want pragmatic solutions. The ultimate solution for immigration has to come from Congress,” which will continue to sit back unless Congressional “feet are held to the fire.”
The obstacle, Brown writes on the center’s website, is that “there is a small, but very vocal, political minority on both sides for whom doing nothing outweighs doing something.”
There is justice in the world. Sometimes (well, often) it comes in small ways. Driving home from Las Cruces, we noticed the sign at the exit from the I-25 rest stop halfway between Socorro and Truth or Consequences. The words were covered. Research using the spousal iPhone confirmed that the sign was for the El Camino Real Historic Trail Site, located out of sight a few miles away across the mesa. The site is “temporarily closed,” says newmexicoculture.org, the Cultural Affairs Department website. Another website, elcaminoreal.org says, “The site is temporarily closed until further notice.”
Budget constraints explain the closing, El Defensor Chieftain reported in October 2016. The facility, a Richardson administration relic, opened in 2005, attracted few visitors and illustrates useless government spending.
Santa Teresa, New Mexico’s booming port of entry with Mexico in Doña Ana County west of El Paso, needs some justice, too. Speaking to the Domenici Conference, Jon Barela, CEO of the El Paso-based Borderplex Alliance, the cross-border economic development group that supposedly includes Doña Ana County, gave Santa Teresa only the slightest of mention. Barela previously ran New Mexico’s Economic Development Department.
For Barela to do whatever he’s supposed to do means embracing Santa Teresa. To do otherwise is absurd. The problems, whatever they are, between the Borderplex group and Santa Teresa should be identified, discussed and fixed.
Maybe justice and common sense will find immigration policy.