Last fall we knocked on hundreds of doors under the blazing sun of Southern New Mexico and made hundreds of phone calls during United We Dream Action’s civic engagement campaign, all with the hope of bringing change to our communities.
A sea of emotions hit us on election night, when we learned conservative Republican Yvette Herrell was the winner in the race for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. That apparent win lasted just for a few hours, but it felt like an eternity thinking about what someone like Yvette Herrell in power would mean for our communities.
After all the ballots were counted, Xochitl Torres Small was declared the winner in the race. I remember sighing with relief because the possibility of living a life without fear became real. My home district in Southern New Mexico would go from being a place where an anti-immigrant Republican had made our communities outcasts, to a place being led by a woman of color who said she was for our communities.
Congresswoman Torres Small’s midterm election victory was part of the promising blue wave of progressive momentum that swept New Mexico’s elections. Thousands of immigrants, a majority from her own district, their families and allies mobilized to talk to voters up and down Congressional District 2. We understood what was at stake. Together with more than 2,000 volunteers from cities like Las Cruces and Sunland Park, we talked to over 10,000 voters about our stories, the importance of getting out to vote and what electing someone like Yvette Herrell would mean: a growing deportation force.
Today, Torres Small’s voting record is a disappointment to voters in her district, especially to all the community members who so eagerly mobilized to defeat anti-immigrant Yvette Herrell.
Although the congresswoman voted to pass the Dream and Promise Act that would protect many people from President Donald Trump’s deportation machine, she also voted to add $4.5 million to beef up the deportation force in the Department of Homeland Security’s budget.
She has continued to vote for more funds and recently voted to commend U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the same agency responsible for family separations and the deaths of members of our immigrant communities. Most recently, a 52-year-old man from Nicaragua was the 13th death under U.S. custody since December of 2018. People have died after not being given proper medical care while being detained in these detention centers to which Rep. Torres Small so willingly gave money.
Let’s also not forget that Rep. Torres Small voted against a $15 minimum hourly wage, citing it would hurt rural communities. All while the detention centers in the same rural communities depend on this inhumane treatment for economic stability at the expense of thousands of innocent lives.
Immigrants who live or have family in her district, like myself, are under attack by the Trump administration. Her voting record is betrayal of the promise that if we defeated an anti-immigrant, we would have a champion fighting for us in Washington, D.C. Instead of appeasing anti-immigrant sentiments, the congresswoman should fight to develop a green economy industry in our district, rather than continuing to fund an industry that is responsible for the deaths of immigrants at the border.
When we fought to defeat Yvette Herrell, we did it as a promise to stop the deportation force becoming what it is right now. We demand accountability for the people of this district who voted with that vision.
Simply put, Rep. Torres Small, it’s time to vote to protect the communities you represent, close the camps and defund the deportation force of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Luis Leyva is a DACA recipient and a member of the New Mexico Dream Team. Luis grew up in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.