New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on the Issues
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
|New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson|
SANTA FE, N.M. — On June 10, Bill Richardson sat down with Stateline to talk about how the immigration issue is playing in this year's race to succeed him as governor of New Mexico. What follows is an edited version of his remarks.
On immigration in New Mexico
"The whole issue of immigration has a taken a strong urgency, mainly because of the Arizona law. My view is that, here in New Mexico, illegal immigration has not been a big issue, because we've managed to assuage the citizens of our state by combining a policy of strong enforcement measures at the border — with my declaring a border emergency, having National Guard constantly at the border — and a sensible immigration policy that has included licenses for undocumented workers and scholarships for immigrant students.
"(We have) a general view that the best policy is to bring the immigrants out of the shadow, work with Mexico and Chihuahua, the state adjoining us, on border enforcement. And then, also, to have policies that say to immigrants, 'If you obey our laws, if you participate in our state in a genuine way, we will integrate you.'"
On using the National Guard at the border
"We have put in, my last batch was 35, National Guardsmen, right on the border … where we had the problem, where there seemed to be an increase in trafficking. What the National Guard does is, one, their physical presence on its own is a deterrent. Secondly, they are very effective in terms of intelligence gathering, setting up… observation of the trails, some of the reconnaissance and detection equipment. They have limited roles. They cannot apprehend anyone. But if you ask the Border Patrol what their biggest assets are, they say, 'National Guardsmen.'"
On his April trip to the border with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
"I called her, Governor Brewer, and I said, 'Look I'm going to do a tour of my border, helicopter tour. We're probably going to go into your side. I want you to know I'm doing this. It's probably going to get some attention.' I had already sent my National Guardsmen. I said, 'This is an FYI.' …. Well, the next thing that happened is her staff said she wanted to go on the tour. And I said, 'Well, of course.'
"She wanted me tour her side with her National Guardsmen. So we did this change in Douglas, Arizona. So I got in her helicopter. I had already toured mine... She hadn't toured the border, so her National Guardsmen were very interested in making sure she got a pretty broad tour. And we did. We toured for like two hours longer than we thought. I think she realized then, that this was an important issue. I think she already knew. But my sense is she hadn't been there that much."
(Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman told Stateline that Brewer had toured the border previous to the tour with Richardson. Senseman also called Richardson's comments about the disparity in National Guard forces between the states "overstated," when taking into account a longer-term Arizona operation to fight narco-terrorism.)
On the Arizona immigration law
"So I called her right before she was about to sign this bill. And we never talked about this bill when we toured. But the fact was that there was an incongruous situation. I had deployed my National Guard and paid for them out of our pocket. I think she had some budget problems, so she couldn't do it."
"I remember telling her, I said, 'Don't sign this bill. This is going to be a big problem for you. There's going to be all this national attention. You're going to have boycotts.' And she basically said she had no options. She had a political problem with it in her own primary and her two senators. I said to myself, 'She's going to sign this thing.'"
On immigration as a campaign issue
"It's cropped up because of Arizona, but it will fade. Other issues will determine the governorship."
On the governor's race
"The most important dynamic is going to be, can the Republicans take advantage of having two Hispanics at the top of the ticket? That's probably never happened anywhere in the country."
"For Democrats, I think the lieutenant governor is well-positioned… She's going to have to separate herself from me but define herself as a Democrat moving the state forward on the traditional Democratic issues of job creation, health care and education reform."
On negative campaigning
"All races are negative. Name me one positive race in the country. This one started the day after, because they started in on some of the law enforcement issues of Martinez. Denish was hitting right after. That's the nature of politics right now. Negative campaigning is used extensively. And unfortunately, it works."