Nevada Delegation Stands With The “Dreamers”
By Frank X. Mullen
All members of the Nevada Congressional delegation oppose President Donald Trump’s revocation of the measure protecting undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, a group called the “Dreamers.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) program, enacted through an executive order by former President Barack Obama in 2012, made the Dreamers eligible for work permits, allowed them to apply for Social Security numbers and protected them from deportation. About 800,000 young people became eligible to work legally in the United States, including 13,000 in Nevada.
The Nevada delegation often split along party lines when it came to immigration reform and the Dreamers. Sen. Dean Heller, for example, in 2010 voted against the DREAM Act. That bill, introduced in various forms since 2001, would have granted permanent residency status to the Dreamers. He opposed DACA in 2012, but defied his party by joining with 13 other Republicans in voting for a bipartisan immigration reform bill in 2013.
Heller still rails against the way DACA was enacted — via an executive order rather than an act of Congress — but says he supports the Dreamers:
“I’ve made clear that I support the program because hard working individuals who came to this country through no fault of their own as children should not be immediately shown the door,” Heller says. He is a cosponsor of the bipartisan BRIDGE Act, which “provides legal status for these (young immigrants) while Congress works toward a permanent solution through the proper Constitutional process.” The BRIDGE Act would provide three-year provisional protection for undocumented immigrants and codify several provisions of Obama’s executive order.
“…We cannot lose sight of the fact that our country has a long history of welcoming immigrants and our communities in Nevada are stronger because of it,” Heller says.
Rep. Mark Amodei last year voted in support DACA when other GOP lawmakers tried to defund the program, but voted against a bill to expand it. He now notes that Trump’s order to revoke the measure has a six-month delay, giving Congress a chance to pass a law protecting the Dreamers: “If we’re unable to do that job, then 800,000 immigrants will be affected,” Amodei says. “That number includes individuals currently serving in our military, working professionals, students, and other contributing members of our society.”
Amodei is a cosponsor of the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, legislation that would provide a way to earn legal status for undocumented child immigrants. That bill allows for a five-year conditional residency status, eventually ending in permanent legal residency.
The Democrats among the state’s delegation have consistently supported protection for the Dreamers. One Silver State congressman has personal experience with living in the shadows as an undocumented immigrant. Rep. Ruben Kihuen was brought by his parents to the U.S. from Mexico as a child. His parents overstayed their visas, making the family undocumented. Kihuen became a U.S. citizen under President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty program.
“I am calling on my colleagues on both Republican and Democratic sides to put their rhetoric aside and actually come up with a solution for these young Americans,” Kihuen says.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto notes that, “in Nevada alone, there are more than 12,000 Dreamers who contributed more than $500 million to our economy; across the country, the 800,000 Dreamers have contributed billions of dollars. But aside from the economic benefits, welcoming immigrants is who we are as a country. We open our doors, welcome people in. Immigrants are an integral part of our future. They are our teachers, scientists, engineers, you name it.
“…The (2017) DREAM Act, introduced by Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is a bipartisan effort, and it needs to pass.” Cortez Masto says communities across the nation must stand with the Dreamers: “…A lot of Dreamers are very afraid — and rightfully so — but as their neighbors and friends, we have to speak up for them, talk about who they are, their contributions to our communities, how they’re integral, and that they’re real people with real families. We have to be vocal, and we have to protest. We have to put our social media to good use.”
Rep. Dina Titus, who also supports the DREAM Act, also is co-sponsoring a bill in the U.S. House to keep DACA recipients’ files away from federal immigration authorities. Titus, appearing on the Reno-based Nevada Newsmakers broadcast in September, noted that the Dreamers did the right thing by applying for legal status, but now the information they provided “can be used to go after not only them but also their families, because, now, (immigration officers) know where they live, where to find them and where they work. It’s terrible.”
Titus says calls about immigration issues are the second-most constituent service her office performs, next to veterans’ services. “People are being rounded up who were not under any kind of scrutiny before. It is frightening people and is pushing them back into the shadows,” she says.
Rep. Jacky Rosen, speaking on the fifth anniversary of DACA in August, noted that: “Our diversity is one of our greatest assets, and DACA has helped keep families together while strengthening Nevada’s economy and our communities. Forcing law-abiding immigrant youth to live in perpetual fear when this is the only country they’ve ever known as home is incompatible with our values as Americans.” Rosen says she will continue to support the Dreamers and comprehensive immigration reform.
She is a cosponsor in the House of the Democrat-backed American Hope Act, which would extend DACA protections for five years and create a pathway to citizenship for those legal residents.