Las Vegas Sun

November 21, 2017

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Groups keep heat on congressional delegation for immigration-reform support


Tovin Lapan

Francisco Javier Santoyo, owner of Oro & Jewelers in Boulder City, discusses immigration reform at a press conference organized by Mi Familia Vota on Thursday, Sept. 5. Mi Familia Vota and other organizations are canvassing neighborhoods and holding numerous events in the coming month to help spur progress in Congress on immigration reform.

Nevada’s entire congressional delegation has publicly stated support for reform legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship. But organizations and individuals in the Silver State aren’t letting up their push until immigration reform becomes a reality.

As Congress emerges from its August recess, and the conflict in Syria and looming budget deal also command attention, community members like Francisco Javier Santoyo and Nevada organizations championing reform plan an array of activities over the coming months. It will reach a crescendo Oct. 5, when Las Vegas groups are expected to participate in a national day of action.

Thursday morning, Santoyo, owner of Oro & Jewelers in Boulder City, spoke at a news conference organized by Mi Familia Vota to demonstrate small business support for immigration reform.

“I’ve had the experience here of my business doing well, I earn well and live well, but I’m not content because I see people like myself that arrive with hope and they are run off. These are good workers,” he said.

It was Mi Familia Vota’s first news conference in Boulder City, a demonstration of the organization’s desire to leave no block uncanvassed, no business owner uninformed and no legislator free from pressure from their home district.

The organization has focused on the districts of Republican U.S. Reps. Joe Heck, which includes Boulder City, and Mark Amodei, the two Nevada congressmen who sidled up to the pathway to citizenship endorsement with caution. Momentum for reform has steadily built this year, but advocates know Congress can easily be distracted.

“We have to get reform done this year,” said Mi Familia Vota state director Leo Murrieta. “We have been knocking on doors to build support, so Heck and other legislators know this isn’t just coming from us but their constituency.”

While the focus is on moving the GOP-led House to take action after the Senate passed a reform bill in June, Santoyo also had words for President Barack Obama.

“I hope that Obama helps us out like he promised,” he said. “Month after month after month, I hear from his lips that he is going to help, but if it’s not one thing it’s another. I know he’s not alone and there are people behind him, but in the end he is the boss and he can do something if he wants.”

Maritza Rodriguez, who heads up Mi Familia Vota’s small business outreach program, said about 14 small businesses in Boulder City have come on board and she is finding that many business owners simply are not informed about what is happening in Congress.

“A lot of times I talk to people who don’t even know there is legislation being discussed right now, or what it covers,” she said. “It’s all about education, and going through the benefits of reform.”

A Fiscal Policy Institute report from June 2012 found the proportion of immigrant small-business owners in the United States, 18 percent, outpaced the immigrant share of the overall population, 13 percent. In 2007, the latest year for which data were available, small businesses owned by immigrants employed 4.7 million people, producing $776 billion in revenue. From 1990 to 2010, immigrants accounted for 30 percent of the growth in businesses with 100 or fewer employees.

Mi Familia Vota is organizing several groups, including student interns and a collection of mothers who are volunteering, to canvass neighborhoods and open dialogues in their communities.

Also announced Thursday, Las Vegas organizations will be participating in a nationwide day of action for immigration reform on Oct. 5. A collection of organizations around the country, including the AFL-CIO, ACLU, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Unite Here, National Council of La Raza, Service Employees International Union, United Auto Workers, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and many others are calling for a “national day of dignity and respect” on Oct. 5.

While the details on events in Las Vegas have not been finalized, the day is expected to include rallies, canvassing, religious events and direct work reaching out to lawmakers.

They hope to rally more people like Santoyo, who choked up while delivering his remarks and has the passion to keep pestering his congressional representative.

“I hope the authorities and the U.S. government have some compassion for people, and help the people who have the ability to make this country grow,” he said. “The only thing they ask is to work, pay taxes and be a part of this beautiful country.”

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