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May 25, 2015

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Immigration group calls Heller vs. Berkley ‘race to watch’

As first debate approaches, immigration groups grade candidates

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Sam Morris and Mona Shield Payne/Las Vegas Sun

Left: Dean Heller speaks at the grand opening of the Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter on Dec. 4, 2009. Right: Shelley Berkley laughs with constituents during a “Congress on the Corner” event Jan. 14, 2011, at her Las Vegas office.

Immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice has released a list of the six most important U.S. Senate races, and the close contest between Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley here in Nevada made the cut.

The other races were in Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Virginia.

America’s Voice is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that supports “humane” comprehensive immigration reform, according to its website. The group opposes restrictionist policies and advocates for an approach that would legalize immigrants residing in the country illegally and provide a path to citizenship.

It is no surprise, then, that the group favors Berkley’s history when it comes to immigration. Berkley, a Democrat, supports the Dream Act, for example, while Heller, a Republican, does not. The organization’s report says the Heller campaign has learned from the mistakes of Sharron Angle’s failed 2010 Senate bid and has taken a softer approach on immigration.

“This cycle, with the fate of the Senate again in the balance, Heller has opted to reach out to Latino voters through gauzy, biography-heavy Spanish-language ads and vague policy language on his Spanish-language website — hoping to obscure his opposition to birthright citizenship and his vote against the Dream Act in the House in 2010,” the America’s Voice report states. “On the other hand his opponent Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Dream co-sponsor who fought to put the bill on the national Democratic platform, is keen to remind Latinos that Heller’s record is anti-immigrant.”

While America’s Voice is in Berkley’s corner, other immigration advocacy groups have thrown their endorsements behind Heller.

NumbersUSA, a group that seeks to lower immigration numbers, grades politicians on immigration issues. While Dean Heller scores a perfect A+, Shelley Berkley took home a D+.

The restrictionist immigration organization and political action committee Americans for Legal Immigration has also endorsed Heller, who in the past has advocated for English-only ballots and an end to birthright citizenship.

The race between Heller and Berkley is close, with Real Clear Politics showing an average poll result of Heller up by less than 1 percentage point.

Berkley and Heller will have the first of three scheduled debates Thursday in Reno. The one-hour moderated debate will air live at 8 p.m. on VegasPBS, KNPB and C-SPAN.

The other two scheduled debates are Oct. 11 and Oct. 15 in Las Vegas.

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