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Immigrants push for DREAM Act during sit-in at Heller’s D.C. office

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Yvonne Gonzalez / Las Vegas Sun

Young immigrants stage a sit-in at U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s office in Washington, D.C., to advocate for passage of the DREAM Act.

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017 | 12:57 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Young immigrants from four states sat in at U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s office in Washington, D.C., today, advocating for passage of a clean DREAM Act.

The group of about two dozen advocates came from Oregon, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee. Heller, a Nevada Republican, was not in his office when the group arrived.

Speakers shared their immigration experiences, occasionally becoming emotional as they spoke about their families and how they came to the U.S.

Sheridan Aguirre of United We Dream said the group was targeting Heller because he has expressed support for a solution for people in the soon-to-end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

About 690,000 people were enrolled in the program as of early September. The program is processing its last batch of renewal applications and is no longer accepting new enrollees.

Heller spokeswoman Megan Taylor said staff members met with the group to talk about the immigration process and the senator’s stance on DACA relief.

“We do have several naturalized citizens on our staff,” Taylor said. “Our scheduler came here from Ethiopia when she was 11. So it’s an issue that the senator does understand, and he has supported a permanent solution — and that was 2013 immigration reform — and he’s continued to say that we need to find a permanent solution for these individuals.”

The 2013 immigration reform bill passed in the Senate but did not move forward in the House. Heller has repeatedly responded to questions about whether he supports the DREAM Act by pointing to his support for the BRIDGE Act, which creates a three-year protected status for certain immigrants.

U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who is running against Heller in his 2018 re-election bid, said today that Congress needs to pass the DREAM Act without adding any restrictive amendments.

“This is the only place they’ve ever known as home,” Rosen said of young immigrants living in the country illegally. “We need to do right by them and pass a clean DREAM Act.”

The DREAM Act has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Republican leaders have not brought the bills up for consideration.

Rosen said she’s hoping a discharge petition in the House, which Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., has signed onto, forces that stalled version of the bill forward.

Amodei said today that it’s the job of Congress to set up a system for naturalization, but nearly nothing has been done to reform immigration in years.

Amodei became signature No. 196 on the House DREAM Act discharge petition in late November. An absolute majority of 218 representatives is needed to make the petition effective.

Any bill that goes to the floor has to go to the Rules Committee, Amodei said, and a discharge petition doesn’t change that. He said lawmakers can attempt to change the bill in the Rules Committee.

“When I talked with (House Speaker Paul Ryan) about it before I signed it, I said, ‘This doesn’t stab you in the back,’” Amodei said. “They call the Rules Committee the speaker’s committee.”