Monday, July 1, 2013 | 5:06 p.m.
The immigration reform legislation made its way through the Senate, culminating in passage in a 68-32 vote on Thursday, sticking closely to the schedule outlined by Sen. Harry Reid.
The majority leader wanted it done before the Senate left for recess for the Independence Day holiday, and he got his wish.
On Monday, Reid started work on the second half of the battle: passage through the GOP-led House of Representatives, over which he will have decidedly less control.
Reid and other politicians gathered at the Culinary Union Local 226 in Las Vegas for a rally both celebrating the sweeping legislation making its way through the Senate and reminding reform advocates that much work remains to be done.
“We have a bipartisan bill that’s not perfect, but it is damn good,” Reid said after being serenaded by a mariachi band.
“We’re a long ways from finished. We’re only halfway done,” Reid told the crowd of approximately 250 people. “Speaker (John) Boehner cannot stand in the way of what the American people want and are going to demand. … Democrats support it; Republicans support it; Independents support it. All people support it except for Republicans in Congress.”
Reid was followed at the podium by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D–Ill., who echoed the majority leader’s argument that the bill was the work of compromise and should be supported in the House.
Gutierrez said that instead of the Democrats using their majority in the Senate to push through one-sided legislation, they asked Senate Republicans, “What is it that is going to be necessary?”
Democrats were willing to compromise and included provisions that excluded immigrants receiving legal residency from the Affordable Care Act and other means-tested programs, Gutierrez said.
“Even after that, they said they wanted 20,000 more border patrol agents. And what did we say, Democrats? Yes, because we want comprehensive immigration reform. It’s not a Republican solution; it’s not a Democratic solution. It’s an American solution,” Gutierrez said.
The rally was attended by several union leaders, including Unite Here President Dee Taylor, and many politicians — including Rep, Dina Titus, D–Las Vegas; state Sens. Ruben Kihuen, Mo Denis and Tick Segerblom; state Assembly members Lucy Flores and Irene Bustamante Adams; and Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller.
All of the speakers emphasized that the Senate legislation was the work of many different factions coming together on a solution, including businesses, labor unions, farm workers and growers.
Getting a bill through the House of Representatives that addresses everything from visas for high-skilled labor to agricultural guest worker programs and adjusting the status of the estimated 11 million immigrants residing in the country illegally is seen as a much tougher task than it was in the Senate. House leadership, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 234 to 201, has so far shown a reluctance to accept the Senate bill and has instead worked on its own legislation.
While Nevada’s Democratic representatives, Dina Titus and Steven Horsford, have been vocal supporters of the reform bill, the GOP members, Joe Heck and Mark Amodei, have not publicly supported the legislation.
“We will ask (Joe Heck) if he is going to be actually voting for this and if he is going to be helping us get the majority in the House,” said Otto Merida, an immigrant from Cuba who is the president of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce and a self-described Republican.
“The Republican Party has to come through for us,” Merida said. “I spoke to Sen. (Marco) Rubio a couple of days ago. He knows that his position as a senator is in jeopardy four years from now, but he is doing what is right for this country at this time. It’s time we brought people out of the shadows.”