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Former Gov: D.C. Needs To Find Political Courage On DACA

Sanogo700 via Wikimedia Commons
Creative Commons
New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M.

All over the country, people who signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have been speaking out about President Trump’s decision to rescind that program. And a federal judge said on Thursday that he’s going to try to rule quickly on the lawsuits filed to challenge the end of DACA, which shielded many college students.

Down in Las Cruces, New Mexico State University sits just 40 miles from the border. Former Republican Gov. Garrey Carruthers is the chancellor there. He said the university has no idea how many DACA students attend NMSU, because they don’t ask people about their status when they enroll. Trump’s decision, he said, was a violation of trust.

CARRUTHERS: If you cannot believe your own government, I’m not sure who you’re supposed to believe. But these students voluntarily filed the right paperwork so they would be protected as so-called “dreamers,” and it was their expectation that they would continue on.

They would be very good citizens. I have no problem with them going through the right processes to become citizens in our country. We’re investing in these students. This is an expensive process to teach students, and if they want to stay in this country as educated people, why wouldn’t we want to do that?

So I got a little upset with the federal policy change. I think Congress ought to immediately and expeditiously establish that at least these 800,000 students in the United States are going to be protected.

KUNM: So you’ve worked a lot on recruitment and retention at NMSU during your tenure there. And you’ve been trying to boost the student population. Do you think the end of DACA will affect your enrollment?

CARRUTHERS: It could impact us. One of our best markets for students here is El Paso, Texas, and West Texas. But we do have programs here actively recruiting in Mexico as well because we’re a very diverse campus, and we think New Mexico State University should have it’s strongest alliances with Latin America, and that would include students from Latin America.

KUNM: You were once a Republican governor of New Mexico in the late ’80s and early ’90s. What do you make of all this political debate around immigration?

CARRUTHERS: I don’t mind political debate around immigration. All public policy issues have to be debated. What I am fearful of is we’re not making very much progress, and I think some of the recommendations are outrageous. For example, I think building a wall doesn’t make sense at all. There’s a lot better way to spend money than to do things of that nature. That’s not an immigration policy. For centuries and centuries people have built walls and found out later on that they didn’t really work the way they thought they were going to work.

So someone, either in the Congress or the president, should come up with an immigration policy that makes sense, and let’s get on with defining what it takes to be here under what circumstances, and then learn to live with it.

President George W. Bush had such a policy. He was about to announce it when 9/11 happened, and we never got back to it. We ought to go back at least to that, take a look at it, see what the advantages of that were, can we build on it, and move forward. And it’s about time we generated a little political courage in Washington, D.C., to take care of an issue that’s lingered way too long.

KUNM: So you’ve lived and worked pretty close to the border down in Las Cruces for a lot of your career. If there’s one thing you think people north of you don’t understand about immigration, what is it?

CARRUTHERS: This great state is what, 47, 48, 49 percent Hispanic?  Part of that is immigration. Part of it is these people got here well before the gringos got here. People in New Mexico understand diversity and understand where our diversity came from. I don’t think there’s any misunderstanding or difference of opinion between what they understand in Chama and what we understand in Anthony.

We live in a rich, diverse state, that was established initially by the Native Americans, and then the Spanish, and then the rest of us showed up. And we mixed all of that really well, and we’re very comfortable in our culture. We New Mexicans who’ve been here any period of time at all are very comfortable with the diversity of our state and how we go to this point.  

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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