Columns appear here a week after they're sent to newspaper subscribers.

© 2017 New Mexico News Services 9-11-17
Keep the Dreamers: Our workforce and economy need them
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
            When the president announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last week, the first howl of protest was about the cruelty of sending people who are American in everything but birth to a country they don’t know. The second howl came from employers and educators.
            For five years, the program has allowed 800,000 young people brought here illegally as children to get jobs and go to school.
            The tech industry has been vocal all along about the need for immigration reform, but now we’re hearing from companies across the spectrum. Their dilemma is simple: Once they find good employees, they don’t want to lose them.
            Nor do businesses care to lose 800,000 consumers. To good capitalists, everybody’s money is green. Colleges, seeing a dip in enrollment, want those students.
            So both economists and business were quick to disagree with the nation’s attorney general when he said the Dreamers are taking jobs from Americans. Economists have found that refugees and Mexican immigrants have little or no impact on the employment of native-born workers in rich or poor countries.
          Dreamers are not your average immigrants. They tend to be educated and skilled. They’re entering the workforce at a time when boomers are retiring in droves. And they’re a mass of young people in an increasingly older population. If they stay, they will buy homes (many already have) and pay taxes for a long time.
            A second factor is low unemployment (in other states), which makes skilled workers harder to find.
            In booming Colorado, for example, my brother just closed his business – not because business was slow but because he had a lot of business and with unemployment in the 2 percent range, he couldn’t hire the people he needed. He was doing more and more of the work himself. Finally, he just burned out.
            I saw another shade of this employee shortage last week when I accompanied a young relative to a job fair. I was surprised at how many home healthcare companies were recruiting. One man told me his startup company had plenty of elderly clients – his challenge was finding employees.
            This was disconcerting. As boomers age, who’s going to take care of us?   
            So you start to see the consequences in kicking out 800,000 young people who’ve been educated and trained here, who have jobs and homes and cars and kids and other family members here.
          Which is why Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer said his company had just reordered its lobbying priorities. Tax reform was important to business, he said, but should be “set aside until the Dreamers are taken care of.” He also said the company would go to court to protect its Dreamer employees.
          Republican Congressman Steve Pearce always positions himself as a friend of business, but he’s not on this issue. He has opposed the DREAM Act, which would have given Dreamers a path to citizenship. He has voted to deport Dreamers and to defund DACA. In a radio interview, he compared children fleeing gang violence in Central America, who were then being held in Artesia, to enemy war combatants. The Center for Civic Policy described him as an obstacle to immigration reform.
          Now that he’s running for governor, Pearce claims he’s fought for immigration reform and criticizes Congress for not finding a permanent solution for Dreamers. He’s a member of the majority party in this do-nothing body. Where has he been all this time?
          Job creators have said that travel restrictions and anti-immigrant tirades have damaged the pipeline of capable workers and future entrepreneurs. Eliminating DACA is icing on a very ugly cake.

Sherry Robinson photo

© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES             9-11-17
Twenty-year drift abandons generations
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Children mostly don’t get headlines, except when something really bad happens. Otherwise they remain in the background, doing what they are supposed to do, being children.
But adverse things happen; “adverse childhood experiences” is the umbrella phrase. And what we get in New Mexico, where we’ve been drifting for 20 years or more, is a generation or two or three of children who have become adults without becoming part of the middle class bourgeois social fabric that is supposed to be what our American society is about. These now-adult children are training their life partners and children in more of the same taking of actions that are morally sanitized with the description “bad choices.”
All sorts of statistics exist about this situation; those numbers will await another column. All sorts of charities exist, too, so many as to generate the hunch that raising the money to stay in business dilutes the work.
I don’t see any broad recognition of the layers of cast-aside people except when someone is shot. Then the headlines come and go, which is the function of headlines, and hands are wrung.
No sense of crisis exists, nothing beyond the usual whining about being 50th in everything. Somehow our so-called leaders can’t figure out that confronting the state’s troubles is the only option. The latest example is the comment from a former senior legislator that the state will have to resemble Detroit before there is a move to action.
A definition: The feds, via the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (, say, “Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.
“ACEs include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, mother treated violently, substance misuse within household, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce, incarcerated household member.”
That’s a lot of ugly stuff in one place. State government does pay attention to these matters, even if it may not look like it. When times are tight, the focus stays on early childhood, public schools, public safety and economic development.
The New Mexico Sentencing Commission quotes a 1998 ACEs definition: “childhood experiences that were judged to be stressful for the developing child.” The ten elements listed above sort into “childhood abuse or household dysfunction.”
Four seems the magic number of adverse childhood experiences for raising the odds of the individual having a troubled, at minimum, youth and adulthood. This figure comes from a variety of sources found in my entirely cursory survey of literature.
The result in New Mexico, for whatever reason, reports the Legislative Finance Committee in its August newsletter, is that “three out of four New Mexico third graders are not ready for the next grade level of reading and seven in ten are not ready for the next level of math.” The figures come from the LFC’s 2017 Early Childhood Accountability Report, which is posted on the LFC’s site at
No wonder that kids get distracted from what Express Employment Professionals, a job agency, calls employers’ five favorites: “attitude, work ethic/integrity, communication, culture fit (and) critical thinking.” As these kids get older and chalk up more adversity, school becomes painful, says my sociologist friend, and energies go elsewhere, possibly hobbies or sports but possibly “peer-based drug use or other activities that lead nowhere promising.”
Lacking confrontation of our troubles, “nowhere promising” is our future.