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“I love the diversity of the district, because it really pushes me to work for the whole district,” U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., said as she begins her second year representing the state’s Second Congressional District.
Torres Small was elected in November 2018 to represent the largest congressional district in the country that isn’t an entire state (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming). It includes Doña Ana and all or parts of 18 other counties, including all of southern New Mexico and even two precincts in Albuquerque. The district “stretches from the Gila Wilderness in the west to the Permian Basin in the east, and from the southern tip of Bernalillo County to our nation's southern border in the Boot Heel,” to quote Torres-Small’s congressional website (torressmall.house.gov).
The district includes a wide range of demographics and some of the most strongly Democratic and strongly Republican counties in the state. It includes Luna County (Deming), which has the state’s highest unemployment rate, and Eddy (Carlsbad) and Lea (Hobbs) counties, where the oil and gas industry is booming, and employers are looking for workers. But Carlsbad has its own infrastructure needs, she said, including finding ways to help local leaders deal with traffic congestion and fatalities.
“This is the kind of district I want to represent,” Torres Small said, adding that she welcomes the challenge of finding ways constituents and communities within her district can work together.
In Las Cruces and throughout the district, health care is “a huge issue,” she said, as residents in both rural and urban areas struggle with costs and with finding access to the services they need, including behavioral health and drug treatment.
Torres Small, 35, grew up in Las Cruces and is married to state Rep. Nathan Small, D-Doña Ana. Getting to know the residents and leaders throughout the rest of her district is one of the things she has enjoyed most about serving in Congress, she said. “That’s part of the job. That’s why I’m back every weekend.”
Torres Small has held many town meetings, roundtable discussions and Congress on the Corner events throughout her district in the past 13 months.
Just since last Oct. 20, she has met with constituents in Chaparral, Milan, Socorro, Artesia, Hurley, Deming, Lovington, Los Lunas, Magdalena, Sunland Park, Ruidoso, Roswell, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Silver City. She has district offices in Belen, Carlsbad, Las Cruces and Roswell.
A report released earlier this month ranks U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., among “the most accessible freshman members of the House of Representatives and top 20 among both chambers of Congress for town halls and public events hosted.”
Torres Small is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and is vice chair of its Tactical Air & Land Forces Subcommittee, and the Homeland Security Committee, where she serves as chair of the Oversight, Management and Accountability Subcommittee. Torres Small is also a member of 14 caucuses, covering everything from the Army and Air Force to energy and LGBT equality.
In dealing with local and national issues, in New Mexico and in the nation’s capital, “the first thing I do is listen,” she said.
National and international issues like impeachment and the threat of war with Iran are “way too serious to have a knee-jerk reaction,” Torres Small said. It’s important for her to “really evaluate” and listen to constituents’ opinions and concerns on each issue, she said, adding that she eventually voted for both articles of impeachment, as well as requiring any president to consult with Congress about military engagement with Iran moving forward,” according to a news release from her office.
After expressing their opinions about major national and international issues, she said, district residents want to talk about local concerns.
Closer to home, Torres Small said she has discussed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with farmers and ranchers across the district. Torres Small is an original cosponsor of the bill that would give employers more flexibility and provide critical protection for workers.
Its provisions include establishing “a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.”
“Different people are so excited about the same thing,” she said about the bill, which she said was an example of her efforts to “build solutions rather than fences.”