House Speaker Mike Johnson called on to pass nuclear weapons reparations for New Mexicans

Reparations for New Mexicans impacted by nuclear weapons testing could be held up in the GOP-led House of Representatives after the U.S. Senate passed a bill in March to provide payments to those suffering health impacts tied to the tests.

The U.S.’ first nuclear bomb was tested in New Mexico in 1945 at the Trinity Site near Alamogordo, setting off a generational wave of cancers and other health impacts for nearby residents. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) passed in 1990 to fund federal payments to those who could prove their health was impacted by weapons testing but did not include reparations for New Mexicans near the Trinity Site.

That could change thanks to legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan to expand RECA to include New Mexico residents near the test, known as “downwinders.” The law currently provides payments to downwinders of the Nevada Test Site in multiple states.

After passing the Senate, supporters of the bill urged the U.S. House and Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to take up and pass the measure before the law’s funding sunsets in about a month on June 7.

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)

Lujan, along with Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and several other members of the chamber including GOP senators along with U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) and Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) and members of the House, penned a letter to Johnson demanding the bill be moved on to President Joe Biden’s desk to become law.

The letter pointed to the Oscar-winning film “Oppenheimer” released in July 2023 about the events at Trinity to show an increased awareness for the test and its potential impacts on the New Mexican people.

“The landmark film Oppenheimer has brought renewed attention to these events, particularly highlighting the first nuclear explosion in New Mexico in 1945,” the letter read. “The ‘downwinders,’ along with those involved in uranium mining, milling and transportation, are still enduring the health impacts from their exposure to this radiation.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) tours Carlsbad Caverns National Park, July 6.

The lawmakers argued the nuclear test exposed nearby residents to radiation, creating illnesses passed through generations that many are still struggling with today.

“Their livelihoods, often devastated by the long-term consequences of radiation exposure, depend on your leadership and commitment to rectifying past injustices. Let us honor the commitment we made to these citizens by ensuring they receive the support and recognition they so rightly deserve,” read the letter.

More:US Senate OKs funding bill for New Mexicans impacted by Trinity Site

GOP bill extends but does not expand nuclear testing reparations

A Republican-led bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) was introduced in April to extend the RECA program for two more years but did not add language to allow New Mexicans to receive payments or expand the program to any other communities.

“When the government harms people, victims should be able to receive compensation. Downwinders and others harmed by the nation’s early atomic program often suffer the consequences of exposure decades after the fact,” Lee said in a statement.

The omission of New Mexico downwinders was a sticking point for the Union of Concerned Scientists. The national organization called Lee’s bill a “slap in the face” to downwinders in New Mexico and other states impacted by nuclear testing.

“I would ask Senator Lee: how do we decide who deserves to be taken care of and who doesn’t? Who gets to make these decisions? Why are people in certain zip codes considered more important than others?” said Tina Cordova, founder of the New Mexico Downwinders Consortium and a native of Tularosa.

She said it was Congress’ and the federal government’s duty to repay New Mexicans and other impacted for the health of affects of nuclear weapons in the U.S.

“We urgently need for our government to take responsibility for the egregious harm that was done to American citizens, including children, when nuclear testing was taking place in the American west and the Pacific,” Cordova said.

“Not only did that testing negatively affect the health of those alive at the time, it destined our children and grandchildren forevermore to a life never free of the genetic damage associated with our overexposure to radiation. I can think of no other act that is more immoral than this.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or@AdrianHedden on the social media platform X.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

This post was originally published on this site