In a country polarized by the seemingly intractable immigration issue, the state of New Mexico has just passed legislation increasing protections for undocumented children.
When it comes to children, everyone beats their chests and assures that they are the most precious thing in society. That is a phrase that is repeated ad nauseam and with which conservatives and liberals agree. But what happens when it comes to undocumented children?
There are states like Texas and Florida in which the simple word ´undocumented´ angers xenophobic sectors. Racial supremacists, conservatives, ultranationalists, fundamentalists, point their fingers at the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and blame them for all the ills of the world.
That the schools, this. That emergency rooms, that. That we are invaded, that the demographic pyramid, that Anglo-Saxon culture… And children? Well, when it comes to undocumented immigrants, there is no mercy for anyone. Not for the children. If you have to separate them from their families, then go ahead. If you have to put them in cages, well, go ahead.
The HR15 law
Contrasting with this lack of Christian values, with this cruel treatment, the state of New Mexico has just passed law HR15 that will facilitate the process for undocumented children to remain in the country. The piece of legislation establishes a special classification for migrant children and youth who have been abused, mistreated or abandoned.
But make no mistake. This is possible because New Mexico has a Democratic-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham. This does not happen in red states (the color of hell, some would say) where Republican hegemony prevails.
New Mexico, like California, is a progressive state where instead of talking about a cultural invasion, they talk about how to help resolve a complex situation in which thousands seek to reach the United States where they dream of a better life, far from economic misery. , political repression, natural disasters that afflict, among others, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“This bill being signed into law means that children who come to our state cannot be forced to return to harm’s way,” said state legislator Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe), who was a sponsor of the bill. “We are committed to making New Mexico a safe place for children to grow up, no matter where they come from.”
It is estimated that about 200,000 people residing in New Mexico are foreign-born. In other words, 10% of the population. According to an article from the Immigration Policy Center, “New Americans in New Mexico” (January 2021), approximately 4 out of 10 are undocumented immigrants.
Statistics from the American Community Survey, from the U.S. Bureau, indicate that 40% of the children living in these families, in which the parents were born abroad, are below the poverty line. But almost 80% speak English well.
The bill passed by the legislature mirrors existing federal statutes and regulations, but with a few key differences. According to the report of the Legislative Finance Committee of the state legislature, the designation extends not only to abused, neglected or abandoned children, but also to those who fear returning to their country of origin.
This new law that protects children adds to other measures that provide a better quality of life for immigrant families in New Mexico, who already benefit from being able to obtain a driver’s license and continue studies in post-secondary institutions paying student fees equivalent to those of local residents.
This article was supported in whole or in part by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative.
Escritor y periodista de Paysandú, Uruguay, quien actualmente reside en Nueva York, EE.UU., en donde ha trabajado en diversos medios. Su corazón es charrúa y su pluma es latina.