Home News Local News Sen. Tom Udall visits Roswell to address community’s issues

Sen. Tom Udall visits Roswell to address community’s issues

“I really believe that the Air Force needs to do a much better job of explaining what they want to do and negotiating with the local communities,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe) says about the military branch’s possible expansion of airspace in the area. Udall made the remark after talking to regional government and economic development leaders at a Rural Resource Roadshow event held Tuesday at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. The local event is the first of six planned in the state. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

New Mexico’s senior senator hopes his visit through the area this week will help address some of the issues facing dairy producers, small communities and various sectors of the regional economy.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe), elected to the office in 2008 and 2016, made the first of six Rural Resources Roadshow stops in Roswell Tuesday morning on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.

He also made time for some one-on-one meetings with local officials and held two other publicized events.

On Monday, he met with area dairy industry members in Roswell after windy weather relocated the scheduled meeting from a Dexter dairy. He said they discussed future opportunities, current labor concerns and recent appropriations to help them recover from the loss of cows due to disasters.

After the roadshow event Tuesday morning, he was heading to the International Law Enforcement Academy to talk about U.S. democratic and criminal justice processes with foreign law enforcement and criminal justice professionals working on terrorism, counterterrorism and other criminal issues. After that, he planned visits to other parts of the state.

Support Local Journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.

Tuesday’s resource roadshow was designed as a formal way to introduce people and programs to local community and business leaders looking for funding opportunities.

This is the first year Udall’s office has sponsored the event, but he stressed that the coordination and communication has been occurring for several years behind the scene. State legislators and regional economic development groups sometimes organize similar gatherings as well.

“We have learned over the years how important it is for local communities be able to empower themselves in a variety of ways,” said Udall. “Many times communities feel very restrained in terms of their ability to get the resources to do that (fund needed infrastructure such as water system upgrades or broadband installations), so what we are trying to do in these regional roadshows is bring everybody together who can help.”

Gathered at the event were representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program, the New Mexico Finance Authority, the U.S. Economic Development Administration Program, the National Center for Frontier Communities, the nonprofit Grow New Mexico and the Eastern Regional Housing Authority, which receives a large portion of its money from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

Also attending were elected officials from cities and counties in the region and planning and economic development staff with state, regional and city agencies.

“These are all the agencies that interact at the city and local level across the country,” Udall said. “This is to make sure that communities have every opportunity.”

Udall said his discussions with some dairy operators the day before covered several topics. One concern affects not only dairies, but many New Mexico industries that find it difficult to hire laborers willing to work under the required conditions. The issue Udall said is hampering employment efforts are current actions by immigration officials, including I-9 audits, that scrutinize whether workers have proper work documentation.

“There is a lot that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is doing right now that is forcing them to release their employees,” Udall said, explaining that some employers are losing half of their workforce in a day after an audit.

Opposition to programs that allow immigrants to work here, so-called “guest worker programs,” takes many forms. Various groups of opponents say such legislation permits mistreatment of laborers, encourages illegal immigration and allows U.S. employers to offer inadequate compensation.

“The real solution is the comprehensive immigration bill that we did, the Senate did, and the House would never take it up,” he continued. “We are still working on this issue. They (dairies) need a workforce.”

He also said that he shared with dairies that he and others succeeded after a couple years of effort in removing a cap that limited how much could be recovered for losses of livestock due to disaster. The recently signed federal appropriations bill removes the Livestock Indemnity Program cap. According to Udall’s staff, dairies in the area were only able to recover a small portion of their losses after Winter Storm Goliath in December 2015.

“If there is another disaster like that, they will be able to fully apply for everything that they lost,” Udall said.

Udall also said he has talked with U.S. Air Force officials in support of local government and business officials asking the Air Force for more open discussions about the possibility of expanding the use of airspace in this area to allow for fighter pilot training missions.

While local leaders say they support the mission and want to work with the Air Force, they also say that expansion plans as currently described could have a detrimental effect on commercial airlines, aviation-related businesses and private pilots who fly for business purposes.

“I really believe that the Air Force needs to do a much better job of explaining what they want to do and negotiating with the local communities in terms of finalizing what they attempt to achieve,” Udall said.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

Previous articleOxygen concentrator, open-flame source sparks fatal fire; Elderly couple dies from smoke inhalation, burns 
Next articleRISD narrows superintendent search to six applicants; Final selection will be announced April 16 at school board meeting
Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.