The Las Cruces town hall comes a day after Rep. Xochitl Torres Small’s forum in Silver City.
Torres Small said she’s proud of legislation passed in last year’s federal budget agreement to increase funding for early childhood education and turn White Sands National Monument into a national park.
She adds she’s pleased with bipartisan efforts in Congress to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, President Trump’s trade deal to replace NAFTA.
“The President negotiated a better deal than NAFTA. It updated certain provisions, it created better provisions for workers. And then Congress with Democratic leadership as well made it even better by making some of those provisions more enforceable,” Torres Small said. “Now, it’s not perfect. No trade deal is—but it’s a deal. And that makes a big difference for our trade economy and for the certainty when it comes to investment in our region.”
Torres Small said the agreement will improve trade provisions for New Mexico dairy and pecan farmers.
Additionally, the representative applauded the House for passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bipartisan bill aims to provide a path to legal status for undocumented farmworkers.
“When people talk about a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, I say we have to have a mile-by-mile analysis and that an 18-foot wall in some of the most rural stretches of New Mexico doesn’t make sense,” Torres Small said referring to the construction of President Trump's border wall.
Along with steps to reduce climate change and healthcare costs, Torres Small called for a border policy that is “strong, smart, and fair.”
“That means making sure that we have enough agents on the line to keep people who are trying to cross and avoid detection. It also means that we need to take on the challenges that we’re seeing in the Northern Triangle [of Central America] because people who are fleeing their homes and trying to claim asylum, presenting to law enforcement, that’s a different challenge altogether. They’re not trying to avoid capture,” Torres Small said. "So, making sure that we can invest in the Northern Triangle so that people don’t have leave their homes and flee persecution. But also making sure that the system for reviewing asylum cases is both appropriately fast and supports due process."
“They’ve been talking about a comprehensive immigration plan for the last 50 years and I have yet to see one show up,” audience member John Murphy said.
Murphy, a retired construction worker, said he wants to see lawmakers come up with an immigration plan that works for everyone. But he liked what he heard on the night from Torres Small.
“I think she’s moving in the right direction. I think she’s really working to try to get something done to get this immigration problem squared away legislatively and by law. That’s what has to happen first. Our people in Congress and the Senate have to get together and hammer this out and come to some conclusion on it,” Murphy said.
“What efforts are being pursued to address the lack of drug rehab specifically in Doña Ana County?” Jamie Tierney, Border Patrol Agent for the El Paso Sector, asked Torres Small.
After being stationed in Las Cruces for more than three years, Tierney said he was shocked to recently learn the county has no drug treatment center program.
“I want to see a plan. I want to see something actually happening because imprisonment is usually not a viable option for most people who have a drug problem. There’s an enormous amount of people, and I’m a law enforcement officer, who have drug problems who actually don’t commit any other crimes. But their lives are turned upside down and they end up being a great burden on the rest of us,” Tierney said.
While Torres Small said she supports increasing federal funding for "recovery opportunites," she said the state needs to attract more primary and behavioral healthcare providers to rural communities. The lawmaker said she also co-sponsored legislation to expand teaching health centers.
The town hall took place the same day the Senate began President Trump’s impeachment trial. Torres Small said she based her decision to impeach Trump on district polling data, calls to her office, the evidence and her conscience.
“I had to take an action to vote for impeachment because I was concerned about future actions that could impact our nation’s security. And let me explain why I think that matters. It’s because I don’t want any other foreign leader giving the impression that they can create a relationship with the United States by launching an investigation into a private citizen. I don’t think that makes sense,” Torres Small said. “I think that undermines our national security, I think it undermines the integrity of our elections. Now, regardless of whether you think impeachment was the right remedy or not, I hope that we can recognize the real challenges that that could cause in the future.”