By MIKE COOK
Las Cruces Bulletin
After nearly 90 minutes of discussion and public input, the Las Cruces City Council voted six to one in favor of a resolution that opposes the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico.
President Donald Trump has proposed the wall. If built, it would stretch across the southern border of both the state and Doña Ana County.
A wall would damage the “cultural connection” between Las Cruces and Mexico, and would cause economic and trade issues between the U.S. and Mexico, said Mayor Pro Tem Greg Smith, who proposed the resolution.
Councilor Ceil Levatino, the only council member to vote against the resolution, said building a wall could help stop the multi-million dollar drug trafficking that takes places along the county’s border with Mexico.
A wall would be only part of increased border security for the U.S., Levatino said, adding that more money should be spent hiring additional U.S. Border Patrol agents and paying for advanced technology – “whatever it takes” – to improve border security, she said.
Levatino also said the resolution “was not relevant to city needs.” Local citizens “want us focusing on the needs of the city, and I agree with that,” she said.
Twenty-one members of the public spoke about the resolution, with 17 supporting it (in opposition to the wall) and four opposing the resolution and supporting construction of a wall.
“We’re talking about keeping us safe here,” said Charles Wendler, who handed out copies of the U.S. Constitution to council members. “The number-one function of a government is protection of its citizens.”
“I am Native American,” said former City Councilor Dolores Archuleta, who opposes the wall. “Everyone else came from somewhere else.”
Vincent Ortega said those who support the wall “have already built a wall around their hearts, around their minds.”
Building a wall would indicate “who has value and who doesn’t,” said Sarah Silva, director of New Mexico CAFé, a nonprofit policy-development and advocacy organization for low and moderate-income families.
“I will do what I can to stand against this wall,” Councilor Kasandra Gandara said.
Building a wall is “a fake answer to our nation’s problem,” Councilor Jack Eakman said. “The issue of the wall is raising more dissention and division in our country, and now between countries.”
“I’m very much in favor of this resolution,” Councilor Gill Sorg said. “If there’s one thing we can agree on here today, it’s that our country needs comprehensive immigration reform.”
“I think (the resolution) is important and necessary for many reasons,” Councilor Olga Pedroza said.
Pedroza said the problem with drug trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border “is not Mexico pushing drugs, it is the market for drugs in the U.S.”
“The U.S. and Mexico have had a special relationship going back numerous years,” said Mayor Ken Miyagishima. “Immigrants have contributed a lot to this great country of ours.”