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July 31, 2014

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LVGEA endorses immigration reform

Local economic development group joins long list of business associations

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Christopher DeVargas

Tom Skancke, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, speaks with the Las Vegas Sun Editorial board, Wednesday June 26, 2013.

The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance became the latest business association to endorse immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for those without legal residency, when the board of directors approved a resolution on Friday.

Nationally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Council of Agricultural Employers are among the hundreds of business groups that have put their weight behind reform. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Urban Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority have all backed reform as well. In June, the Metro Chamber hosted a press conference headlined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that reiterated the local organizations’ call for action.

The LVGEA resolution urges Congress to adopt immigration legislation that “secures our borders, expands the temporary worker and employer-sponsored green cards programs, creates a balanced and workable employment verification system, and provides a legalization program with tight criteria and eventual citizenship.”

In a statement announcing the resolution, the LVGEA framed reform as an economic issue vital to the Silver State’s future prosperity.

“Our endorsement today is fundamentally about furthering economic development in our region and making metro regions across the United States more globally competitive,” Missy Young, Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice President of Colocation at Switch said in a statement. “Additionally, there are few states where the growing economic clout of immigrants is more apparent than in Nevada, and we believe federal legislation will expand opportunities for immigrant-owned firms and businesses seeking to hire talented foreign nationals.”

Approximately 20 percent of Nevadans are foreign born, and, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, 7 percent of the state population and 10 percent of the state workforce is made up of immigrants without legal residency.

More than quarter of Nevada’s workforce is foreign-born, and one in five Nevada business owners are immigrants, generating $1.1 billion in income for Nevada annually, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

Advocates for sweeping immigration reform legislation have anticipated Congressional action for over year, clamoring for the House of Representatives to take up the baton from the Senate, which passed a bill in June 2013.

There was some hope of House action leading up to the November elections, but the primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R – Virginia, and the current humanitarian crisis of young children flooding across the southern border have added to the uncertainty. The U.S. government has estimated 90,000 children, mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, could cross this year.

“As long as we have crisis like this with kids coming across, you've got to deal with this immediate crisis,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R – Arizona, recently told Fox News. “Three months ago we did have a chance. I think the Cantor loss really was the death knell for it. Up until that time I thought we still had a shot at it. But with this crisis, no chance, obviously.”

A CBS news poll conducted in June found that 51 percent of people said immigrants in the country illegally should be allowed to stay and eventually apply for citizenship, 15 percent favored letting them stay but not providing the option of citizenship and 29 percent said they should be required to leave the country.

“Our immigration system is broken,” Tom R. Skancke, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, said in the statement. “Like many others, we’ve read that this Congress won’t pass immigration reform legislation, and that’s frankly unacceptable. … Immigration reform is not just about our neighbors to the South. It is a global issue. Lack of action on immigration reform affects our ability to attract foreign direct investment and oftentimes educated talent our region currently does not have or does not produce.”

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