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Senator Udall on Immigration Policies, Trump's Wall, Separating Children, Troops at the Border, and Related Legislation

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I am consistently proud of my Senior US Senator from New Mexico, Tom Udall. His insights are both compassionate and firmly based on reasonable statutes. I am glad to share this latest epistle to me with OpEdNews readers.

Aside from purely partisan implications, the Trump administration (and I don't mean the President himself) should consider the sound and sober advice of this Senator, former Assistant US Attorney, Attorney General for New Mexico, Congressman, and now Senior US Senator. He not only reflects the needs and insights of New Mexicans, but brings to the table sensible and effective measures.

While you are at it, please sign this petition from CREDO:

Tell Democratic 2020 hopefuls: Lead now. No wall. No boots. No beds.

"Lead the resistance to Donald Trump and confront his white supremacy head on. Block funding for the border wall and Trump's rogue deportation force."

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Statement by Senator Udall:

America was born as a nation of immigrants, and New Mexico's unique history is especially shaped by diverse communities of people who have come to the state over many centuries of our history. I believe immigration has made and continues to make our nation stronger and more prosperous. I support responsible and humane immigration policies that promote the rule of law, international trade, cross-border community ties, necessary and appropriate border, and other security measures to keep our communities safe from drug and human trafficking.

President Trump and his administration have pursued an unprecedented campaign to demonize and restrict the rights of immigrants, especially those from Muslim countries and asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America. These actions include the Muslim travel ban, terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, separating children from their parents, detaining thousands of children in large tent camps, and even tear-gassing toddlers. I strongly condemn this administration's indefensible and inhumane actions and opposes this attack on our system of laws. For those migrants who arrive at the U.S. border seeking asylum --including those traveling from Central America, they should be allowed to use the existing legal process to determine whether they are eligible for asylum, and the process should be fairly applied.

I further oppose sending active-duty troops to the border or any threats to close the U.S. Mexico border in response to Central American migrants fleeing persecution, poverty, and violence in their home countries. There is no threat that requires active duty troops to be taken away from their missions or preparedness training. Instead, the U.S. should focus on the root causes of migration through engagement and diplomacy with Central American countries. I support humanitarian policies that will ensure that families do not have to flee their homes to find safety and security. The Trump administration's policies are not only inhumane and cruel, they damage border trade and harm the economies of border communities in New Mexico and other states, the livelihoods of working families, and the nation as a whole.

To hold the Trump administration accountable for its family separation policy, and to improve the quality of care for migrant children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an office within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I proposed several amendments to the fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill. These amendments would require that HHS make information about the number and status of children in its care available publicly on its website on a monthly basis, require reporting of abuses at ORR shelters to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and require ORR to provide the full range of services and same level of care at temporary facilities housing unaccompanied minors that is required at permanent facilities.

As a border state, New Mexico will be especially affected by any changes made to our national immigration system and border security. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I voted against the fiscal year 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill on June 21, 2018. The bill included $1.6 billion in funding for President Trump's proposed wall along the southern border, instead of devoting our limited resources to improving our ports of entry or smart border security. I could not support the bill until children separated from their families as a result of the Trump administration's family separation policy were reunited with their families and until a humane process is in place for families coming to the United States.

Efforts to militarize the border or build a wall are ineffective and misguided. Thirty-six communities in New Mexico, California, Arizona, and Texas have already passed resolutions opposing the border wall. According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report published on August 6, 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have identified 17 priority areas for wall construction without doing a cost analysis for each area. The cost to construct 722 miles of barriers in those priority locations was estimated at $18 billion. Further, the report notes that "Without assessing costs as part of the prioritization process, CBP does not have complete information to know whether it is prioritizing locations that will use its limited resources in the most cost-effective manner." New Mexicans and other border state residents who experience border issues first hand want border security, but overwhelmingly reject the construction of the wall.

When it comes to the needs on the border, I support effective and efficient investments in infrastructure, security technology, and an increase in CBP officers at ports of entry. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in the first eleven months of fiscal year 2017, 6 more times cocaine, 4 times more heroin, 4 times more methamphetamine, and 7 times more fentanyl were interdicted at ports of entry than between ports of entry. I supported the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus Appropriates bill which allocated $14 billion to CBP. The bill provided an unprecedented amount of funding for opioid detection equipment at ports of entry. It increased funding for the border security technology, unmanned aerial systems, multi-role enforcement aircraft, light enforcement helicopters, non-intrusive inspection equipment, and port and border building facilities. This bill also added an additional 328 CBP officers for ports of entry, who can help the flow of visitors and trade, while interdicting illegal contraband.

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