By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Immigration reform needs to create a balance between immigration and industry, according to Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
Denish, who spoke to the Clovis News Journal Thursday, is attending a task force today with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to address border and immigration issues.
Napolitano is expected to announce $60 million in grants as part of Operation Stonegarden to assist states and communities in addressing border issues and concerns.
Denish said the money — New Mexico is expected to receive about $4 million — will aid in crime enforcement, technology upgrades, training and enhanced communication to battle some of the issues creeping across the U.S.-Mexico borders.
Just because a community does not lie on the border, doesn’t mean it is exempt from the issues, said Denish, a Democrat who plans to run for governor in 2010.
“I think every place, the further away you get from the border… that’s where the flow of drugs goes. If it makes it past the border it goes north or it goes east,” she said. “Once (drugs) get here, it affects all of us.”
Adequately equipping law enforcement to deal with those issues is critical to enforcement, she said.
While reform is crucial, Denish said it must be sensitive to families torn apart by immigration or those who are genuinely seeking citizenship and are willing to work in labor positions that are otherwise difficult to fill.
Often children of undocumented workers are born in the U.S. and as such, are citizens, however their parents are often deported.
“There is a very human side to it,” she said. “The destruction of those families is very real.”
Dairies are often particularly dependent on immigrant or migrant workers because it is a job few others are willing to do, Denish said, and in an industry struggling under economic difficulties, they can’t afford for immigration reform to strip them of their work force.
“I talk to dairy guys and agriculture guys (who) want to make sure that they have access to the immigration work force,” she said, explaining “Most business people do their part to make sure they have the green cards and the I-9 (forms).”
Denish said reform must seek a balance between illegal immigration, commerce and security.
However she said she does not think a fence along the border is the answer.
“If you build a fence,” she said, “they’ll find a way to get over it.”