Las Cruces City Council Calls For National Immigration Reform
New Mexico’s immigrant families have the full support of the Las Cruces City Council, following a unanimous vote encouraging the creation of a better pathway to United States citizenship.
Councilor Johana Bencomo says the resolution, which calls on Congress to develop comprehensive immigration reform, is a way to welcome essential immigrant workers into the community and spur federal action.
“This felt really important to me to just reiterate and vocalize that Las Cruces has been a welcoming community to immigrants and people of all backgrounds for a really long time but especially in the last few years,” Bencomo said. “We right now are in a once in a generation moment where Congress is currently discussing applying another pathway to citizenship.”
This is not the first resolution to be passed by the city council supporting the rights of immigrant families. In 2017, the city council passed a resolution welcoming immigrants into the Las Cruces community. Councilor Gill Sorg says that the new resolution builds on the previously passed policy.
“I'm really surprised we haven't done this a long time ago,” Sorg said. “I think the welcoming resolution that we had here, what three or so years ago, that was part of the whole process, but getting this path to citizenship is so important.”
Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants within the United States, around 60,000 reside in New Mexico. According to the nonprofit New Mexico Voices For Children, that group of 60,000 pays more than $67.7 million annually in state and local taxes.
Within the city of Las Cruces, around 12% of the population is undocumented. Bencomo stresses many of those undocumented Las Cruces residents provided essential services during the height of the pandemic.
“Right now, is a great moment to get a bunch of people who in the last two years were essential workers,” Bencomo said. “You cannot be both essential and deportable at the same time, and it is time Congress makes a decision about our communities.”
Councilor Gabe Vasquez is also advocating strongly for immigration reform, noting the vast variety of skills immigrant families bring to the local community.
“It's not just our farmworkers and our folks who are working in hotels and in the hospitality industry,” Vasquez said. “But it's our young students…folks who are going to add tremendous value by starting small businesses and also becoming teachers and professors. Immigrants are built into the fabric of our community and who we are.”
The proposed Build Back Better Act, which would include a $100 billion investment into the national immigration system, could implement efforts to reduce backlogs, expand legal representation and make border processing more humane.
But efforts to build a better pathway to United States citizenship have been slow—with Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough recently rejecting a plan to change the immigration registry date from 1972 to 2010 due to the Byrd Rule, which would have allowed more immigrants to obtain green cards.
Vasquez stresses the creation of a better path to citizenship should be included in the final Build Back Better Act.
“We've ignored those people in our communities and the rights that they deserve to have,” Vasquez said. “From our spot as a border city here in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I think it's our duty to make sure that we show the powers that be, our congressional delegation, that we strongly support the inclusion of this policy in this Build Back Better Act.”