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Guv candidates talk about undocumented immigrants

Susana Martinez (left, courtesy photo) and Diane Denish (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

As the national debate over immigration reform rages, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish says she honestly doesn’t know what should be done about the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States illegally.

Republican Susana Martinez, on the other hand, says Washington should create a legal immigration process for those who are currently in the country illegally, but she opposes “amnesty that rewards those who have broken the law with a special pathway to citizenship that allows them to cut to the front of the immigration line.”

“In principle, I believe we need a legal immigration process for those who are in this country now and wish to stay here that is practical, while at the same time does not invite the next wave of illegal immigrants,” Martinez said.

Denish, while not taking a stance on the issue, said she recognizes the “heightened passions this issue inflames,” and said “divisive language and pure partisanship must be removed from the debate in favor of reaching bipartisan middle ground on this issue.”

The statements came in response to a detailed series of questions I asked on national border security and immigration policy. I felt it was important to understand how both candidates would approach national policy because whoever is elected will have a great deal of influence, as a border state governor, over the immigration reform debate in Washington.

Here are the questions I asked:

  • What steps do you believe the United States needs to take to secure the border?
  • What steps do you believe the United States must take to reform its legal immigration system?
  • Should the United States allow the millions of people who are currently here illegally to stay, or should there be an active effort to seek them out and deport them?
  • If they should be allowed to stay, what requirements should be placed on their gaining citizenship or legal status?
  • If they should be deported, how would the United States in practicality make that happen?

I qualified the questions by telling the candidates I was looking for specifics on national immigration policy, not state issues such as allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and college scholarships.

The responses:


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Diane Denish

“First, I believe we are well past the time for a national debate on immigration reform and border security. I am on the record supporting a comprehensive federal immigration reform policy that does two things: secures our borders and addresses undocumented workers in a way that is focused on facts, not fear.

“I support stronger border controls and the use of the National Guard to help patrol the border. I also propose making strong investments in the State Police, including the creation of a highly trained unit tasked with investigating border crime and augmenting the efforts of local law enforcement to make New Mexicans safer. I also support greater investment in and use of communications technologies to allow better coordination across jurisdictions.

“In addition, I would work with the federal delegation to explore the creation of a national border safety and security training center in the Boot Heel located near Deming and Lordsburg. This training center would not only have the potential to create jobs locally in those communities, it would also be a national center of excellence for best practices on border security.

“With regard to undocumented workers, I recognize the heightened passions that this issue inflames. I frankly do not have an answer about what to do with the millions of undocumented immigrants already here. But I do believe the way we are approaching the debate so far is not conducive to creating reasoned public policy.

“Cooler heads must prevail. Divisive language and pure partisanship must be removed from the debate in favor of reaching bipartisan middle ground on this issue. But most important, all stakeholders – including states and local governments – must be a part of the discussion and creation of the solution.”

Susana Martinez

“The federal government should lead on the issue of immigration reform, but they have not. While the president has called for comprehensive immigration reform and offered some vague principles, he has yet to propose a detailed plan.

“First and foremost, we have to secure the border and stop the flow of illegal immigration. It is not only dangerous, but also costly to our state. Each year, illegal immigration costs New Mexico millions. That is simply far more than we can afford in these times of extraordinary budget deficits and as more New Mexico families and small businesses are finding themselves in very difficult economic circumstances.

“Securing our border includes more boots on the ground and greater use of technology that allows us to monitor portions of the border which are extremely difficult to navigate. It is important that federal, state, and local law enforcement continue to work closely together to help secure our borders. The border security portion of immigration reform is critical, because no immigration plan can work if we have a porous border. That’s why border security must be accomplished first.

“When it comes to immigration, we must continue to embrace our rich cultural heritage in New Mexico that welcomes legal immigrants. I strongly encourage the federal government to seriously debate and develop thoughtful solutions that not only embraces this heritage, but also respects our laws.

“In my opinion, the solution does not rest with amnesty that rewards those who have broken the law with a special pathway to citizenship that allows them to cut to the front of the immigration line. In principle, I believe we need a legal immigration process for those who are in this country now and wish to stay here that is practical, while at the same time does not invite the next wave of illegal immigrants. Simply legalizing every illegal immigrant in the country, as some have proposed, will only undermine our legal immigration process.

“Policies that we implement here in New Mexico are important to the overall effort to stop illegal immigration nationally. We must stop promoting policies that attract illegal immigrants to the state, such as driver’s licenses, and we must end sanctuary policies.

“There is a clear difference between myself and Diane Denish on this issue. I want to revoke driver’s licenses that were issued by the state to illegal immigrants, while at the same time repealing the law that allows them to receive those licenses. Granting more licenses to illegal immigrants attracts more illegal immigrants to the state and is not pragmatic. There have been documented cases of criminals who come here illegally and obtain driver’s licenses and Denish would allow these illegal immigrants to keep their licenses. Denish has only made vague promises to change the current law.

“A truly comprehensive immigration policy means federal and state government work in concert. It’s time for New Mexico to step up to the plate and do its job, which has not happened for the last eight years.”

You can read more about what both candidates have said about allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses here, here and here. The one difference I found in reading those articles is on the issue to which Martinez refers: Denish wants to end the practice going forward, while Martinez wants to do that and also revoke licenses that have already been obtained by undocumented immigrants.

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9 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Xenophobia is on the rise in America. You have incompetent Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer saying that most illegal immigrants are simply “drug mules.” MORE BUNK.

  2. If you think it is bunk about the records on illegal drug smuggling and the forced use of illegal aliens to carry them across Hemingway, maybe you should take a short vacation to the Organ Pipe Monument and go into the mountains for a couple of days and enjoy nature. If and when you come home, you might just see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Of course there is no guarantees you will come home, since the entire area is posted because of the danger from drug and illegal alien smuggling. By the way, this is still part of the United States, so you can rest on your beliefs that you will be perfectly safe while visiting there.

  3. Hemingway

    I thought you could be objective in your assessment of the subject.

    I was wrong…..My bad.

    But do have a nice day…..

  4. The partisan Center for Immigration Studies disguises its biased studies in academic language with no real research. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “CIS often manipulates data, relying on shaky statistics or faulty logic to come to the preordained conclusion that immigration is bad for this country.” CIS represents xenophobia at its worst!

  5. Hemingway,

    Lipman does have an impresive background. NYU and U. Cal Davis…She worked for some fine multi-national firms. I will give you that much. But you can take a look at excellent emperical arguments from The Center for Immigration Studies. The Urban Institute and The Kaiser Family Foundation et. al. that argue the point differently.

    Rather than take the work of individuals who are writing for a particular audience I suggest you travel to the border and get the opinions of those impacted by illegal immigration.

    For the record I have traveled to Hidalgo, Luna, Dona Ana, Otero and Lea Counties and met with individuals who are at ground zero. Many tell me there is a problem. I have also been to El Paso recently and I hear the same thing there.

    I hope you will take the time to take a critical look at both sides of the arguement.

  6. Professor Francine J Lipman has written an excellent study, ” Taxing Undocumented Immigrants: Separate, Unequal and Without Representation”. It appeared in Tax Lawyer, Spring 2006 – Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 06-20. It stated:

    “Americans believe that undocumented immigrants are exploiting the United States’ economy. The widespread belief is that illegal aliens cost more in government services than they contribute to the economy. This belief is undeniably false. [E]very empirical study of illegals’ economic impact demonstrates the opposite . . .: undocumented immigrants actually contribute more to public coffers in taxes than they cost in social services.”

    New Mexicans should realize this and not be fooled by the propaganda dished out by the campaign of Ms. Martinez about undocumented immigrants.

  7. It is clear that reports from both sides of the border indicate the majority of the violence is in Mexico and has not crossed over to the U.S. side of the border. Ironically violent crime is down in the U.S., particularly in the border states. However, xenophobia extremists and SB1070 supporters want you to believe otherwise. They simply lie to you to make you believe border violence has increased. They sadly exploited the murder of a rancher and want you to believe all illegal immigrants are responsible for his death. However the police don’t know who committed the crime and even if it was an undocumented immigrant.

    In January 2004, President George W. Bush called for a broad overhaul of America’s immigration laws intended to provide a path to legal citizenship for millions of undocumented workers in the United States. This looked like an historic opportunity to reform America’s immigration laws. A late 2005 Time magazine poll, for instance, showed that 72% favored “a program that would allow illegal immigrants who have jobs in the United States to live and work legally in the United States for a fixed period of time if they registered with the government.” However reform was killed by anti-immigration sentiment. Harvard historian Benjamin Friedman in his “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth clearly show there is strong correlation between rising economic insecurity like today and xenophobia and .nativism.

    Examples of xenophobia like Ms. Martinez’s scare tactics campaign and in the actions of Governor Brewer of Arizona abound. Governor Brewer made the insulting comment that “the majority of people immigrating illegally that are coming here here are bringing drugs” and “80% of our law enforcement that have been killed or wounded have been by illegals.” This is all BUNK!

  8. Hemingway,

    I have taken the time to read the report from the MPI. Further I looked at the background of their directors and staff. In my lifetime I have read many such reports…and even written several. They are for consumption of a particular audience, and have pre-ordaned outcomes.

    I have read your comments in the past and know you are not naieve. You would certainly look at another view.

    For arguement purposes Hemmingway, where does this report mention the potential risks/costs of having undocumented imigrants during a period when this country is fighting wars on two fronts? This report speaks to the high cost of enforcement of immigration policy but does not talk about the potential risks of having our enemies cross our borders potentially causing a catastrophic event. Do you see this as a risk?

    Healt, Education and Welfare are huge costs and long term in nature. It is nearly impossible to determine these costs with any accuracy. Do you agree?

    The drug issue is also poorly outlned in this report. The cost is substantial. These are but a few of the issues not well addressed in the report.

    I have seen others that show the cost of illegal imigration to be about $650 million for NM annually.

    This seems about right to me…

  9. Ms. Martinez’s views represents the opinions of the mindless politicians shouting from the roof tops that undocumented immigrants are costing us millions per year. This is malarkey! Anyone with an ounce of common sense ( sorry most politicians avoid this during an election year) should read the recent Migration Policy Institute study, “The Economics and Policy of Illegal Immigration in the United States”. Undocumented immigration has had a positive effect on the economy and they pay substantial taxes.

    http://www.allvoices.com/s/event-4756529/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5taWdyYXRpb25wb2xpY3kub3JnL3B1YnMvSGFuc29uLURl%20YzA5LnBkZg==

    As former President Bush rightfully stated: “America’s immigration system is outdated, unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hard-working people and deny businesses willing workers and invite chaos at our border.” If Ms. Martinez is elected her shortsighted policies would cause chaos on the New Mexico border. New Mexico need leaders standing up and telling them the whole truth and not perpetuated lies about the undocumented immigrants as a bunch of drug smugglers.

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