New Mexico has special needs for immigration

New Mexico has such a shortage of teachers that school districts have hired teachers recruited from the Philippines. This was reported by the nonprofit investigative news organization, Searchlight New Mexico.

It’s not just New Mexico. A New York Times report revealed that several states are doing the same thing.

The Filipino teachers make great sacrifices to come here. They pay steep fees to commercial recruiting organizations, leaving them with what any American professional would consider very inadequate take-home pay.

The reports say these teachers are highly qualified and have years of professional experience. They spend three years working with New Mexico students and learning the community’s culture.

Then, because of visa restrictions, they must go home. Would it be better if our communities had the choice to invite them and their families to stay?

In a different industry, we’ve heard about the labor shortage in agriculture, in New Mexico and other agricultural states. Apparently even in times of high unemployment, very few Americans want to pick chiles.

Some agriculture jobs are not seasonal. Our state’s growing dairy industry, for example, needs workers all year.

Our booming oil and gas industry is hungry for labor. Some months ago I asked an official with the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association whether businesses in their industry resort to undocumented workers to fill their labor demands. The official said carefully that they can use every worker they can get, as long as their status is legal. I thought, you have to say that, but I’m not sure I have to believe it.

Immigrants and temporary workers, both legal and undocumented, occupy categories across education and skill levels. I wrote last year about New Mexico’s foreign students, some of whom are talented, creative, and ambitious, and would love to start businesses here – the very thing New Mexico needs more of. We educate them in our taxpayer-subsidized universities and then our laws force them to go home so New Mexico loses its investment.

Last year, in the tiny community of Capitan, I stayed in a motel owned by a family from India. New Mexico is losing population. Wouldn’t it be good to encourage a few more immigrants in places that could use a boost, like Raton Tucumcari, or even Thoreau?

Immigration policy is a national, not a New Mexico issue, but if we look rationally at the issues, our state should have input to an eventual comprehensive immigration law. Here are a few points for discussion.

We want people coming to New Mexico who have professional talents we need, such as entrepreneurs, physicians and those teachers from the Philippines.

We want people who will do the unpleasant, low-paid jobs that Americans don’t want. It’s not just agriculture. There are jobs like slaughterhouses and meatpacking. There is a growing need for home health aides.

We should be eager to welcome everyone who has helped the American military, should we not? One of the worst outrages I’ve heard has been the threatened deportation of individuals who had risked their lives to help us in Iraq or Afghanistan.

We should want to, as the Statue of Liberty says, lift our lamp beside the golden door, to welcome those who are truly refugees, whether from violence in Central America, genocide in Africa, or war in Syria. We should be able to talk rationally about determining what numbers our communities can absorb. This is not only a moral imperative but can also be economically beneficial if it’s done with good planning.

And, while we support border security, New Mexico would not benefit from a wall disrupting our border communities.

The election is over. We can set aside the bombastic rhetoric and scare tactics. New Mexico could use a boost to its population, and this is a conversation we should have, like neighbors.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2018

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