SANTA TERESA, New Mexico (Border Report) – A congressman from New Mexico is calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to take down razor wire on the border between the two states.
“The governor’s actions are insulting to New Mexicans. Putting up concertina wire between two states in the United States is, first, unconstitutional and, second, disrespectful to the community,” U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, D-New Mexico, said on Monday.
He was referring to the placing in mid-October of more than a mile of sharp barrier the Texas Army National Guard installed on the banks of the Rio Grande where the river stops being the border with Mexico and merely marks the state line with New Mexico.
Texas began placing wire along the river late last year, frustrated over the federal government’s inability to stop the hundreds of thousands of migrants that continue to come across the border between ports of entry every month.
Abbott next targeted the New Mexico border alleging migrants who cannot come into Texas because of the barrier allegedly are crossing illegally through the Mexico-New Mexico border, then coming into El Paso, Texas.
“Both El Pasoans and New Mexicans live in binational communities and impeding their way of traffic, their ability to get from one state to another without any consultation […] is the wrong way” to do things, Vasquez said.
Vasquez already sent a letter to Abbott, informing him as much.
Addressing immigration reform ‘one step at a time’
Vasquez, who represents 180 miles of U.S.-Mexico border in Southern New Mexico, was in Santa Teresa on Monday to announce he would be filing several immigration bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“When I got to Congress, I thought of what comprehensive immigration reform might look like in the modern era,” Vasquez said in a news conference outside the Santa Teresa port of entry. “One of the things I found is that it’s going to be incredibly difficult to have comprehensive immigration reform in the current state of politics that we are seeing in Washington and across the nation, but I wanted to do something meaningful for my community; I wanted to advance the conversation on immigration.”
Another Democratic member of the House, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, earlier this year filed a comprehensive immigration reform bill she said had bipartisan support. The Dignity Act of 2023, however, hasn’t seen the floor of the House yet.
Vasquez believes it is possible to get bipartisan support for individual bills that address staffing shortages at commercial ports of entry, hiring shortcomings at the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the need for high-tech inspection technology.
“I saw the nonintrusive inspection technology (at Santa Teresa) that has allowed for up to 70% commercial cargo inspections that allow us to detect illegal drugs like methamphetamine and fentanyl and also speeds up commercial cargo,” he said. More federal investment in that technology across the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border “is going to lead to an increase in economic activity that is going to grow jobs […] This is what I’m pushing for in Congress.”
He also is pushing for a bill to increase penalties against migrant smugglers who employ or harm minors. That is being prompted by an aggressive effort from smugglers to recruit drivers on the U.S. side who transport those they have just helped cross the border illegally.
That recruiting is going on through social media platforms, Sunland Park, New Mexico, Police Chief Eric Lopez, added.
Vasquez is also advocating legislation for additional funding to cope with the humanitarian crisis facet of unauthorized migration, to hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accountable for conditions at migrant detention centers and others that facilitate importing foreign agricultural labor.
The Strengthening Our Work Force Act calls for giving unauthorized migrants who work in health care, education or energy production a two-year temporary status leading to permanent legal residence.