Commentary: Local elected leaders announced statewide support for a pathway to citizenship for New Mexico’s undocumented essential workers through Congress’ budget reconciliation package during a press conference on Wednesday.
“We know our communities and our economies are surviving during this pandemic because of essential workers,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller during the virtual press conference.
Congress is currently in the process of taking historic steps to deliver a budget that would modernize key sectors of the economy, including the immigration system which includes a pathway to citizenship for essential workers and agricultural workers. The New Mexico Congressional delegation has strong local support for bold action in Washington on legalization.
Ninety (90) elected leaders from dozens of cities and counties in the state—including mayors, state legislators, council members, and school board members—signed on to a statewide letter and joined approximately 600 more local elected officials across the country to urge President Biden and Congress to prioritize the inclusion of a clean pathway to citizenship for essential workers and agricultural workers in the current budget reconciliation process.
“I could not say no to this effort. I have seen the many contributions of immigrant residents in my district. The time has come for a pathway to citizenship for essential workers and their families,” said New Mexico State Representative Roger Montoya of Velarde.
About 60,000 New Mexicans could qualify for legalization as essential workers, according to the American Immigration Council. New Mexican undocumented essential workers and families have an outsized impact on the New Mexico workforce in key industries. About 13% of the New Mexico workforce is foreign born, while only 9.4% of the population is immigrant. Immigrant workers are key to the oil and gas industry, agriculture, home health care and traditional health care, construction, retail, hospitality, and the restaurant industries.
“COVID shined the light on how essential immigrant workers are. The majority of essential workers are immigrants. We know our Congressional delegation will fight for a pathway to citizenship and for us,” said Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez during the press conference.
“In my district, many children have at least one immigrant parent. Mixed status families should have access to all the same resources as other families. The financial health of my city relies on the industries where essential workers are present,” said City of Santa Fe Councilor Roman Abetya.
During the virtual press conference, organized by New Mexico’s largest immigrant-based organizations Somos Un Pueblo Unido, EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, and New Mexico CAFé, local elected officials shared why it is crucial for their communities, local economies and a robust post-pandemic recovery that Congress acts on a path to citizenship this year. Officials cited increased wages, a larger tax base, inclusion in all stimulus and economic relief programs, financial stability, stronger worker protections, public health, and child wellbeing as important benefits of legalization.
Participants also spoke to New Mexico’s cutting edge policies meant to integrate mixed status families including access to college and scholarships, drivers’ licenses, health care, tax credits and rebates, COVID-19 economic relief, public safety services, and other immigrant-friendly policies.
Representatives from the offices of Congresswomen Teresa Leger Fernandez and Melanie Stansbury also participated with public shows of support.
To see the New Mexico letter with signatories, click here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GZUHJ2hqfBPXALi3Y634jggcfq12RdssEHN89sINsZ4/edit?usp=sharing
To see the national letter with signatories, click here:
Statements from Local Elected Officials at Press Conference:
Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez (District 3):
"We have a saying in Southern New Mexico that the border crossed us. We have a rich and proud multicultural history in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County, and that includes the contributions of immigrant families and immigrant communities. Immigrants enrich our communities, strengthen our economy, and add to our quality of life. They are our brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends. I encourage all of our state's elected officials to support a federal pathway for citizenship for Dreamers, farmworkers, TPS holders and essential workers.”
New Mexico State Rep. Andrea Romero (Santa Fe, District 46):
“Immigrants have held us together in the workplace throughout this pandemic and deserve to reap the benefits of committing to our nation. Dreamers, TPS holders, and essential immigrant workers deserve a pathway to citizenship that is fair and provides assurance they will not be targets of punitive federal or state actors. Immigrants make up the fabric of our community: neighbors, patrons, friends and family. We must work to protect them.”
New Mexico State Rep. Roger Montoya (Rio Arriba, District 40):
“As a newly elected Representative for House District 40 in northern rural New Mexico, I fully understand a pathway to citizenship for our immigrant population is more critical than ever. With more than thirty years of non-profit advocacy, work in education, health and human services, I know how important our immigrant community is to our state and nation, as the US economy relies on farm workers, service and hospitality workers and small business owners. Our diverse immigrant communities strengthen our rural communities by building a more vibrant economic outlook across various sectors and emerging industries. They provide a youthful entrepreneurial spirit and strong work ethic to our otherwise aging rural communities.”
Santa Fe City Councilor Roman Abetya (District 3):
Immigrant workers are essential to not only our wellbeing as a district but also our well being as a city. As the Chairman of the City’s Finance Committee I am very aware that Santa Fe’s economy is heavily dependent on the hospitality, tourism, construction, and restaurant industries. These residents are essential to our financial prosperity. Their participation in our workforce and contribution to our businesses allow us to pay for parks, streets, public safety, and the basic services we expect from local governments. Over 20 Santa Fe local elected officials signed onto this letter because they know how integral immigrants are to every aspect of our community and how legalization will help a robust recovery.”
Roswell Municipal School Board Member Hilda Sanchez (District 4):
“As school board members we must be champions for immigrant children. Immigration is vital to our economic health in Roswell. In moments of great injustice, we can’t afford to be silent. Educators and community activists must stand together to demand that immigrant families be able to regularize their status. This is long overdue.”
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller (pre-recorded video):
“We know that immigrant communities have been part of the building blocks of our city for a long long time, since our founding. We also know that immigrant workers stepped up as essential workers during the pandemic and have played an important role toward recovery. New Mexico has some of the most inclusive policies when it comes to the local level and we are doing all we can to support our immigrant communities. When eligible immigrants gain citizenship, our city becomes stronger!”