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October 19, 2017

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Politicians dig in as immigration debate heats up

Three young immigrants in Las Vegas receive funds to apply for deferred action


Tovin Lapan

Victoria Ruiz (with certificate) shared her story of life in Las Vegas without legal residency during a ceremony Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in which she received a scholarship to cover the cost of applying for the deferred action for childhood arrival program. The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada had a fundraiser to gather the money to pay for the applications for three immigrants. The other winners were Julius Chavez, second from left, and Fernando Escoto, middle. Desarae Pendavis, far right, participated in the “Drags for Dreams” fundraiser and helped present the awards.

Debate over immigration reform is in full swing, and the political jabs are flying back and forth.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to defund the deferred action for childhood arrivals program that President Barack Obama announced last year.

The House vote was largely symbolic, as the amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill is unlikely to have any traction in the Senate. However, it did send a message that House Republicans do not like Obama's maneuvering through executive power.

The Senate started debate on the immigration bill this week, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was prepared to parry amendments designed to gut the bill. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to approve a motion to proceed, which starts the period where senators can offer amendments and speak as long as they wish on the bill's merits and disadvantages.

To reach a vote on final passage, there will be a cloture vote or motion to close debate. Reid has previously said he was confident there would be the necessary 60 votes to end debate, but that remains to be seen.

Over the weekend, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., joined a handful of other GOP senators who have already expressed support for the legislation.

Obama had a press conference Tuesday to reiterate his support for immigration reform and included a young immigrant in the country without legal status as a guest.

"If you're not serious about it, if you think that a broken system is the best America can do, then I guess it might make sense to try to block it. But if you're actually serious and sincere about fixing a broken system, this is the vehicle to do it," Obama said, according to remarks released by the White House. "And now is the time to get it done. There is no good reason to play procedural games or engage in obstruction just to block the best chance we've had in years to address this problem in a way that's fair to middle-class families, to business owners, to legal immigrants."

Reid has been a vocal supporter of the bill, and on Monday cited a Sun story on immigrants in the country illegally who are not from Latin America in his speech on the Senate floor. Meanwhile, some GOP senators, such as Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., have come out strongly against the bill, arguing it does not do enough to secure U.S. borders.

On Monday, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, referred to the bill as the "Obamacare of immigration" and said it was the perfect example of "big government dysfunction."

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has welcomed debate on immigration reformbut has not tipped his hand on which way he is leaning. Nevada advocates for immigration reform are planning phone banks later this week to flood Heller's office with messages of support for the bill.

Additionally, much like the president and the immigration bill's staunchest supporters, local reform advocates are attempting to put a face to the issue.

On Tuesday morning, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada announced the three winners of its deferred action for childhood arrival "scholarships." Each of the three winners, who submitted essays to explain why they were deserving of the funds, will receive $465 to pay the mandatory filing fee for the deferred action program.

One winner, Victoria Ruiz, said her mother fractured both her legs two years ago while returning to Mexico to see Ruiz's father. Since then, Ruiz has not seen her mother and has lived with her aunt. If Ruiz's application is approved, she would receive a work permit and be able to stay in the United States legally.

"It's extremely hard to continue to struggle ... to keep everything together and continue to work hard in school while worrying if (my mother) is OK," Ruiz said. "How is she living? How is she feeling? Does she have enough money? Do we have enough money to send to her? ... So, it has been two years of struggling and waiting and hoping that one day I'll be able to see her."

The other winners are Julius Chavez and Fernando Escoto, and their deferred action applications will be completed free of charge with the help of nonprofit legal assistance organization Hermandad Mexicana.

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