Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 | 4:20 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford joined with officials from an array of Las Vegas community organizations Tuesday morning to express support for passing immigration reform legislation this year.
Horsford, a freshman congressman, sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security and is also co-chairing the Congressional Black Caucus’ task force on immigration reform.
“This is an issue that affects all communities. The immigration issue is a human-rights issue,” said Horsford, D-Nev.
Horsford was joined at the news conference at Victory Baptist Church by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Robert Fowler; Richard Boulware of the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP; Sanje Sedera of the Asian American Democratic Caucus in Las Vegas: Evan Louie from the Asian American and Pacific Islander Democrats; Marisol Montoya of Mi Familia Vota; and Hugo Stanley of the Las Vegas Pacific Islander community.
“(The work) is just beginning, and I think the message here is that we are ready to work together to get this done in a way that all of our communities can benefit from,” Horsford said.
The community organizers encouraged Horsford to support immigration reform and shared statistics and stories on both the benefits of immigration and the need to fix a “broken” system.
Fowler said too many families are torn apart by deportations and a cumbersome system that impedes family unification.
“I recognize that immigration reform, depending on whom you speak with, can be framed in a variety of different ways,” Fowler said. “It’s a controversial topic causing many elected officials and leaders to delicately balance the message that they send forth. If we offer a faith perspective, it would be to suggest that we look for moral understanding that helps us to determine how to best approach this issue of immigration.”
Sedera said immigration reform must be truly comprehensive, addressing visas for family unification, work visas and visas for those skilled in math, science and technology fields, in addition to working on a plan for the estimated 11 million immigrants with no legal status.
“I often see students coming from many different countries to get their education in the United States, and then they leave,” he said.
Horsford echoed those thoughts, referring to policies that push foreign graduates of U.S. colleges back to their home countries “self-inflicted” brain drain.
The congressman said the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus and the Asian Pacific American Caucus have agreed on a platform for immigration reform with three key principles: a pathway to citizenship that is both “fair” and “earned”; continued work on border security; and greater enforcement and oversight of employers.
“A lot of times people talk about undocumented workers in ways as if they are doing something other than trying to live the American dream,” Horsford said. “It’s employers who are exploiting workers that we have to hold accountable, and right now the broken immigration system does not do that. Once we pass comprehensive immigration reform, there will be teeth in enforcement of employers so that only authorized workers can work in the United States, thereby lifting the wages and quality of life for all workers.”
Most political observers agree passing an immigration-reform package in the GOP-led House of Representatives will be more problematic than the Democratic-led Senate. Several House Republicans already have said they did not support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants residing here illegally, something Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and President Barack Obama insist must be part of the legislation.
Horsford acknowledged a lot of work remained to come to a consensus, but said, in his mind, an immigration reform deal must include a pathway to citizenship.
“One of the concerns we have in the House, based on what we heard from some of our colleagues, is that they are willing to have a worker visa program, but some of those individuals aren’t as committed to a pathway to citizenship,” Horsford said. “So, we can allow people to come here to work, but we won’t allow them to unite their families? Those are things that constituents in my district don’t support.”