Monday, August 15, 2005


Detainers of the Purple Sage

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has made an interesting move in his state. He has declared a state of emergency along his state's border with Mexico. The specific reasons that he gave were the impact of crime and drug smuggling that illegal immigration has brought to those regions. By doing this he frees up $750,000 right away and pledges another million in the near future that will be used to beef up border security.

Now the first thing that comes to my mind when learning of this is of course the presidential politics involved. Mainly, Gov. Richardson has been frequently named as a possible candidate in 2008 or almost any other race from thereafter. He's a somewhat charismatic, dynamic popular governor from a swing region. Therefore, picking an issue that is divisive all over the country but that is also regional to can safely move to the right on is a great bit of positioning on his part. Plus, this has the added bonus of having to do with foreign policy, which will be helpful when he needs some example of experience in that field, the one area most Governors are deficient in.

I must admit, however, I have mixed feelings about the move. First, I don't like what certainly looks to me to be someone changing major precedents and policy simply to run in an election 3 years away. On the other hand, something needs to be done about border security and the federal government isn't doing it. But at the same time, turning more people away unconditionally is not necessarily the answer I was looking for. I'm not even going to step into the many-faceted issue of drug smuggling and the related crime.

What I'm wondering is (and I'll admit I really am wondering because I have not had a chance to delve into the nuances of the NM state budget) by spending this money on a serious but not necessarily urgent problem now, will New Mexico have money left in the case of a much more immediate problem, a true emergency. I especially start to worry about that we're talking about New Mexico and forest fire season is by no means over yet.

Finally, as far as I'm concerned, Gov. Richardson is pretty clearly over-stepping his bounds. Basically what he's doing is using a loophole to allocate funds without any congressional approval. He is making a very bold step outside of the traditional checks and balances. While I think that sometimes those steps are necessary, and that generally speaking it is natural for the executive branch to become stronger over time as democracy becomes more stable, I really worry when constitutional balance is threatened by what appears to be a very political ploy.

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