Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

State leaders must understand complexities of border communities

Border residents are no strangers to candidates for public office using our communities as political pawns. People who don’t understand our border communities, especially those who do not live in our border communities — or who have not visited our border — too often exploit fearmongering narratives for the sole purpose of riling up their base without actual substantive policy solutions. Sadly, even candidates from New Mexico fall into this trap.

The reality is that most statewide elected officials are not from our New Mexico border community, and often have a difficult time understanding the complexities we face. It has been my experience that policymakers who do have a desire to understand our communities will advocate for policy decisions only after having consulted with those of us who call the borderlands home. I call on our current candidates to have the courage to do just that.

Mark Ronchetti, a Republican candidate for New Mexico governor, has unfortunately fallen into the trap of making desperate attempts to light a spark and resorting to proudly disseminating the same tired narratives about our border communities. Mr. Ronchetti’s recent op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal provides no new ideas on how to better and more effectively govern border communities. Furthermore, it is very evident that he is simply not the kind of leader we need in these trying times.

Upholding myths that border enforcement is the number one priority for New Mexico and for border counties, upholding Trumpian falsehoods for political gain, Mr. Ronchetti fails to recognize and address the real challenges at hand. Families reeling from uncertain financial and health consequences of the pandemic, one of the worst housing crises we’ve seen in decades, and the rise in poverty — and the incredible cost in consequences that it will lead to. Whether it is a lack of substantive resources for mental health and substance recovery providers, to climate change devastating rural communities across the state with rising heat, droughts and floods, Mr. Ronchetti is clearly out of touch in perpetuating falsehoods for political gain.

Border communities reject his analysis, and instead invite him to learn from those of us who actually live and breathe the border. I personally urge Mr. Ronchetti — and any other candidate, for that matter — who wishes to understand what it is like to live in the borderlands, to visit with the people closest to these issues. Organizations like NM CAFé, El Calvario, the ACLU, Catholic Charities, and the NM Dream Team, all whom for decades have been working on immigrant and border rights issues. Consider speaking with the mayor of Sunland Park, the Las Cruces City Council, or any of the institutions that responded to the humanitarian crisis in 2019, and did so with courage, investments in resources, and outright compassion. We have a deep and intimate understanding of our border communities, and it is time that we lead and tell our own stories.

Johana Bencomo is a longtime Las Cruces resident and immigration and border advocate. She currently sits on the Las Cruces City Council, representing District 4.

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