Published Tuesday, May 27, 2014 | 11:02 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, May 27, 2014 | 12:53 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined this morning with representatives from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and other area business and tourism organizations to trumpet the need for urgent action on immigration reform.
It has been nearly a year since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill that tackled high-skilled worker visas, agricultural labor and an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country without legal residency.
But the House has not brought the bill or its own legislation to floor for debate, and the pressure from immigration advocates continues to grow.
Reid, doubling down on comments made last week, attempted to address the concern of some Republican lawmakers that President Barack Obama cannot be trusted to enforce immigration law.
“I accept that (House Speaker John Boehner) does not trust the president,” Reid, D-Nev., said at today’s news conference at the Las Metro Chamber of Commerce.
“So here is my offer to the speaker. Pass the bill now and have it become effective when we have a new president. Now, that’s not my preference, but I accept that because the American people need to know that we can get things done.”
If nothing happens before Aug. 1, the president would be justified in taking executive action to institute reforms, Reid said, reiterating a “deadline” set last week by Democratic lawmakers and others pushing for reform.
Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the GOP is wary of working with the president on the issue and does not support the Senate’s comprehensive bill.
“I think that moving in a piece-by-piece fashion on this in a common-sense way is the way to do it,” Boehner said at a press conference last week. “But the president has responsibility here as well, and when he continues to ignore Obamacare — his own law, 38 unilateral delays — he reduces the confidence of the American people in his willingness to implement an immigration law the way we would pass it. So the president has to rebuild this trust if we’re going to be able to do this.”
Reform of the immigration system has been off and on the Congressional agenda for years.
After Obama’s reelection in 2012, the issue gained momentum last year as the Senate hammered out a broad bill.
The long slog toward reform has not been lost on Otto Merida, president of Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce.
“This is like Groundhog Day,” he said. “We do this every year...We are at a critical moment in this nation. When are we going to pass this piece of legislation? If we don’t do it now, when?”
Engaging with the 11 million immigrants without residency would aid national security by “bringing them out of the shadows,” he said.
Merida, a Republican, dismissed the GOP claim that offering legal residency would create 11 million Democrats as a “crazy notion.”
“This is not amnesty,” Merida said. “An amnesty would be if I allowed you to come in, and that’s all you have to do. If you come in, you have to get in the back of the line. You will have to pay taxes...You will have to pay penalties. You will have to go through a criminal background (check).”
In addition to the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Urban Chamber of Commerce, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Caesars Entertainment all joined the call for action as an economic imperative.
Multiple studies released last year in the wake of the Senate proposal found Nevada’s
tax revenues and economy would benefit from immigration reform.
One report projected Nevada would receive an additional $6.1 million in tax revenue annually if the bill were enacted, and nationally tax revenue would increase by $2 billion.
“We think that passing and moving forward comprehensive immigration reform can be part
of continuing this (economic) recovery,” said Ken Evans, president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce. “International tourism has the potential to blossom here...and passing this particular legislation will help improve conditions for small business owners.”