During a talk Thursday night sponsored by Albuquerque-based New Mexico Voices for Children, Harris, a longtime New Mexico resident, said he wonders how far along the U.S. has come since 1968, when the group released its findings. He noted the civil, racial and political unrest in the nation this year in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed during a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis.
“What is the kind of state that we want to create for our children now and our grandchildren and great grandchildren?” he said. “What are the ways we need to invest in New Mexico’s people in order to make that desired future happen?”
The COVID-19 pandemic is squeezing New Mexico’s already tight state budget, as vital tax revenue drops during the recession. At the same time, oil and gas companies in New Mexico and across the West are filing for bankruptcy, leaving behind orphaned wells and leaving New Mexicans with the unpaid bill for cleaning them up.
“We haven’t figured out a way to establish a tax structure that allows the state and municipalities and counties to raise adequate revenue to meet the needs of their citizens,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children.
Nearly half reported that members of their families had seen reduced hours or pay cuts, with one in three parents or primary caregivers saying they were struggling to meet rent or mortgage payments. 36 percent of respondents who had lost work were not eligible for unemployment benefits.
“It’s a reflection of the fact that despite what people say, that kids are our most precious asset, it’s not true in the way we invest our money in state and local government,” Jimenez said.
The good news is New Mexico is starting to see improvements in a number of areas as well as “big investments in programs that matter most to kids,” such as in education, early childhood education and child care programs, said Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children.
James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the last-place ranking is disappointing, but the overall improvement in 10 of the 16 indicators is encouraging. "So that's a positive thing - not as much as we'd like, and maybe some other states are improving more than we are, but at the same time, at least 10 of those indicators moved in the right direction," Jimenez said.
NM Voices contends the lack of financial assistance immigrants will receive during the COVID-19 crisis will lead to a loss in economic activity in areas of the state with higher immigrant populations, exacerbating a growing economic crisis in those areas. The report lists ways immigrants are under-served during an emergency like a pandemic.
NM Voices for Children and other nonprofit organizations issued a report Thursday highlighting the contributions immigrants make to society to point out the inequity of refusing relief to a group who pays state, federal and local taxes. According to the report, both documented and undocumented immigrants pay more than $996 million annually in federal, state and local taxes.