By Etta Pettijohn
During her campaign for election as a U.S. representative from the 2nd Congressional District, Xochetl Torres-Small emphasized working together, across the aisle, with all political parties -- and touted how she would listen to all her constituents if elected (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=).
This past weekend the former Sen. Tom Udall staffer did just the opposite of that campaign promise, when she announced a meeting in Truth or Consequences by contacting local Democrat party officials, and not the local media or other interested parties, although she knew at least four days in advance she would be visiting the town.
According to Sid Bryan, chairman of the Democrat Party of Sierra County, she contacted him and party Vice Chair Barbara Pearlman about her upcoming visit four days before the event. The Torres-Small staff never contacted any local media.
When contacted, Torres-Small Deputy Chief of Staff Brian Sowyrda said the only prior notice the representative’s office gave was on a Facebook post, even though Byran said otherwise.
Forty percent of Sierra County’s population are seniors, many who don’t use computers, let alone Facebook. Also, no notice of her upcoming meeting in the town are found on her Facebook site.
Sowyrda said they did not contact the media and are still “trying to get things up to speed” on their mailing and press lists, something normally done during a political campaign. The local Democrat party website also had photos posted on Feb. 6 announcing Torres-Small’s Feb. 9 meeting.
Torres-Small has in recent days visited the U.S./Mexico border, in light of the statements by Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s that there “is no crisis at the border,” and that the thousands of illegal South American migrants crossing the border is “a manufactured crisis.”
Following is the correspondence from Torres-Small’s deputy chief of staff. This included three phone calls, where he refused, by press time, to answer questions sent to his office:
On Monday, Feb. 11, the “Sentinel” corresponded with Sowyrda via telephone and email. Following are the questions he was sent via email:
--- Why was local media not contacted, like the "Sierra County Sentinel," and KCHS radio?
Which organizations, persons, companies, media or other sources were contacted?
Was the Sierra County Democrat Party notified in advance of the meeting?
What border entry areas did she visit, and what media was contacted along the border towns?
Why was Truth or Consequences chosen for a visit? Did Torres-Small visit Silver City or has it contacted, visited the Gila Regional Medical Center, where many of the sick immigrants are being transported?
Did the Torres-Small staff contact the "Albuquerque Journal," and the "Las Cruces Sun News" about any of these visits mentioned above?
What organizations, parties did Torres-Small meet with on the border entry visits? Were local law enforcement agencies contacted about those visits before they happened? Ranchers? Residents?
Sowyrda replied, via email, the same day. Here is his response: “I am sorry I didn’t have a chance to track down information for all your questions. I will be sure to add your email to our press list. Here is our statement on this past weekend’s trip to the border.
"I was excited to be joined over the weekend by Leadership and other Members interested in learning the realities of life on the border. The challenges we face are misrepresented by too many in Washington, and as a new Member of Congress, it is one my goals to educate my colleagues about my home and the real issues we face along the border in southern New Mexico.
"I believe in border security. Our border needs to be a place that is both strong and vibrant, and yesterday’s tour illustrated why we need border security—in the form of strong, smart investments as well as a clear and moral immigration system. I look forward to working with the colleagues who joined me yesterday and those across the aisle as we continue to work on this issue moving forward." -- Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02)
The “Sentinel then sent another email reading, “No problem, you still have time. I look forward to having these questions provided to me by late tomorrow afternoon, by my deadline. Should you still have problems getting these, my publisher has agreed to move her deadline to get the newspaper to the printer to noon Wednesday. Again, I look forward to hearing from you with this information. Forty percent of Sierra County's residents are seniors, and many have no access to Facebook, where you said the information was posted. So, I look forward to working with you on getting information to these important constituents.”
This prompted a call from Sowyrda explaining they would not be answering any further questions. Following that brief phone call, he emailed again, saying, “As I mentioned, we did not send out any media advisory for the event in TorC this weekend, but we have added you to our press list and you will receive all media advisories and press releases going forward.
This prompted the “Sentinel to send him another email reading, “Can you answer the other questions, minus the ones about the why local media weren't notified of the event, by Wednesday noon at the latest? They are really pretty simple questions.”
As the newspaper went to press there was no further correspondence from Torres-Small’s office.
A San Antonio TV station and CBS 4 Fox affiliate reported on the Feb. 9 Torres-Small trip to the border (https://foxsanantonio.com/news/local/house-delegation-spends-time-in-border-land-to-better-understand-needs ,) “El Paso congresswoman Veronica Escobar, and New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, led a group of Democrats on a tour around the borderland on Saturday.
"There's a lot of debate about what we need to do on the border," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, one of the democrats touring the border at El Paso. Hoyer is just one of three visitors from out of town touring the area.
"We came to El Paso, and we found it to be safe," he said. Walking through detention facilities, meeting with Immigration and Custom Enforcement, immigration advocates, and getting a briefing from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, all have their own takeaways from the experience.
"We met a mother who had just been reunited with her children last night after being separated for four months," said District 5 Pennsylvania Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon. "And seeing her still crying, and seeing her children trying to adjust to the situation having just the whole array of experiences, it's been a long day, but one that was really, really useful."
"What I did learn by speaking to federal agents on the border is that we could use more technology, we could use more immigration judges," said District 1 New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland. "Overall, the House delegation agrees the border and a solution to its security is complex.”