One hundred days after she took the oath of office, U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small spent last weekend traversing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.
Torres Small took part in a phone interview Saturday with the Roswell Daily Record while in Albuquerque. She had just visited Zuni Pueblo and a stop in Ruidoso was next on her travel itinerary.
A Democrat and former water rights attorney from Las Cruces, Torres Small won the U.S. House seat in the usually Republican 2nd District that encompasses southern New Mexico.
Since she took office Jan. 3, she has traveled to all 19 of the counties within her district, and hosted four town hall events and 100 roundtable discussions. As a lawmaker from a district composed of rural communities, Torres Small said she has made being a champion for the needs of those places a top priority.
“I am excited to continue to work to make sure that I am being a voice for rural New Mexico and expanding opportunities out here,” she said.
Torres Small said she has worked to bridge the partisan divide that has come to define modern politics.
Torres Small’s staff said in an email that 62% of legislation she has signed onto or introduced has garnered bipartisan support. Although examples of America’s partisan and ideological divide can be found on clear display on television, Torres Small said there are House members heading to the floor to establish relationships and work on legislation with fellow lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.
She cited U.S. Rep Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a Republican who serves with Torres Small on the House Homeland Security Committee, as someone she has worked well with.
Torres Small said that during her time in Washington D.C., she has learned the importance of prioritizing, and said she wants to get things done rather than getting entangled in the latest controversial comment or partisan feud.
“I think we have to focus more on working together then being the most public person on TV,” she said.
As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and with her district consisting of 180 miles of southern border, border security has been one of Torres Small’s main focuses.
Torres Small said she has talked with ranchers, immigration advocates, healthcare providers, asylum seekers and customs and border patrol agents since taking office to learn about the situation and find a way to better manage the flow of migrants and asylum seekers.
She has also taken part in four trips, with members of Congress of both parties, to the border.
Yvette Herrell — Torres Small’s Republican opponent from 2018 who is hoping to run against her in 2020 — recently criticized Torres Small in a Facebook post for not declaring the situation on the border a national emergency.
Partisan rhetoric is not a viable solution, Torres Small said. President Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that people who enter the country illegally be transported to sanctuary cities is also something that she said is not helpful.
“We have real challenges along the border, but efforts to polarize the situation certainly don’t help,” Torres Small said.
The situation on the border can be improved partly by the government hiring additional immigration judges to tackle the backlog of immigration cases — a provision in the bipartisan bill that reopened the government after a nearly two-month partial government shut down, but those judges have yet to be hired.
The border can be made more secure by making sure the appropriate resources are available in the right areas, including customs officers and border patrol agents, Torres Small said.
In March, Torres Small and Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas introduced the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Rural and Remote Hiring and Retention Strategy Act of 2019.
The legislation that passed out of the committee with bipartisan support requires the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to issue a strategy and implementation plan by CBP to recruit and retain agents in rural areas. She said there is often a shortage of agents in rural and remote areas.
Throughout her early months in Congress Torres Small has worked on a host of issues, from legislation to make the White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico a national park to co-sponsoring legislation to connect unemployed workers with reemployment services.
Ensuring access to affordable quality healthcare is also something Torres Small said she has worked on. She said that she had spoken with a pregnant woman who had to travel two hours and out of state for all of her prenatal appointments.
Such shortages are something that threaten the future of New Mexico, she added.
“What is it saying about our future when we are not investing in children here in the district,” she asked?
Torres Small has co-sponsored legislation that aims to increase rural access to healthcare services by boosting the number of residency positions eligible for graduate medical education payments under Medicare for qualifying hospitals.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.