Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / AP
Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 | 2 a.m.
An unmarked white van pulled up to Astrid Silva’s home last week. The driver approached with a box and asked for her by name. She asked what the box contained. “Flowers,” he said.
“Show me,” she demanded through her closed front door.
The man seemed confused, but he opened the lid to reveal a Valentine’s Day bouquet. He was not an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer there to round up Silva and her neighbors.
“I freaked out at the flower guy,” said Silva, whose struggle for citizenship has played out on the national political stage and made her one of the strongest voices in the movement for immigration reform. “We are back to the fear I had when I was a little kid.”
Las Vegans like Silva had felt somewhat optimistic about their chances of gaining legal status. Former President Barack Obama’s proposed DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) and follow-up DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) promised a pathway to citizenship for those brought to the United States illegally as children. And immigration policy overall seemed focused on using the government’s limited resources to deport those who’d committed violent crimes. In a 2014 speech, Obama said: "Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day."
That era is over. Memos released last Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security indicate that DHS “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” though officials have said that protections for Dreamers will hold. In cracking down on illegal immigration, President Donald Trump's administration plans to hire 15,000 new enforcement agents, expand the role of local police partnering with ICE and depart from Obama's “catch-and-release” policies. Trump's Jan. 25 executive order intensifying security and enforcement efforts made it clear that anyone in the country illegally would be viewed as a "significant threat to national security and public safety."
"For those here illegally today who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only: To return home and apply for re-entry," Trump said during a campaign speech in September, a hardline stance that was championed by his Hispanic supporters.
As he follows through on such promises, with ICE raids ramping up over recent weeks, reactions are reverberating through Southern Nevada. According to the Pew Research Center 8 percent of people in Las Vegas, Paradise and Henderson are unauthorized.
One such immigrant from Mexico, who asked that her name be withheld, said she has been avoiding leaving her home. She is afraid of winding up on a deportation list before she can file legal paperwork. So she mostly goes straight to and from work, though she recently attended a “Know Your Rights” workshop organized by the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus.
What is an unauthorized immigrant?
A foreign-born person who does not have a legal right to be or remain in the U.S.
• Anyone who sneaks across the border
• Anyone who came to the U.S. as a tourist and didn’t leave
• Anyone who came to the U.S. on a visa who let it expire and didn’t leave
“I still go to church,” she added. “I pray for my family and the country.”
Laura Martin, associate director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said stories like this have become commonplace since Trump was elected.
“I knew people who were thinking of purchasing a home, people who were going to take a vacation but aren’t now,” she said. “They are saving that money just in case — for legal fees, should deportation happen.”
Geoconda Arguello Kline is secretary-treasurer for Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents 57,000 workers on the Strip and is the state’s largest immigrant organization, with a membership that is 56 percent Latino and represents 167 countries. Members must have proper documentation, but Arguello Kline said they are concerned about their families, friends, neighbors and others in their communities. The Center for Migration Studies of New York reports that in 2014, there were 3.3 million mixed-status households in the U.S.
“Everybody knows somebody who is in this country and has been trying to get documentation,” she says. “There are families worried about being separated. That’s wrong.”
Not helping matters are the swirls of misinformation, especially via social media. Well-meaning residents are posting or sharing statuses claiming that immigration checkpoints have been set up at certain intersections, something ICE categorically says it does not do.
One such rumor — that an ICE checkpoint went up near a church in a predominantly Hispanic community in East Las Vegas — reached Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, prompting him and other church leadership to ponder their role in the immigration debate.
“We are scrambling to find the best ways to act in a Christian manner when our government undertakes a course that is indisputably heartless and bureaucratic, and smacks of xenophobia and racism,” Edwards said.
But according to the Rev. Christie Leavitt of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church on South Nellis Boulevard, nothing happened. “We held our congregation, ate our chocolate chips and went home.” (An ICE representative confirmed that the agency had been inundated with inquiries from media outlets seeking to confirm rumors of enforcement activities that don’t fall under their current policies.)
“People think they are being helpful,” Martin said, “but we’ll go and check and there’s nothing there. It’s not helpful. It plays into the fear. It might also become the boy who cried wolf. When it does really happen, maybe people won’t believe it.”
Concerned residents are using words like “when” over “if” because extreme enforcement measures seem inevitable under the Trump administration.
“Everyone we talk to is feeling far more anxiety and apprehension,” said Michael Kagan, director of the Immigration Clinic at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law. “It feels like the hurricane is about to hit.”
While details such as a timeline and budget for Trump's full vision of ending illegal immigration haven't been offered, ICE already is casting a wider net. Sweeps and raids in other cities have resulted in the detainment of people whose only crime was being here illegally.
“(That) means 11 million people are a priority," Kagan said, "and it returns to simply whoever is the easiest person to find.”
That could be problematic for everyone, as wavering trust in police could create public safety issues.
“We cannot have a segment of the population not trust us and not call us when they see something, or if they become a victim of crime themselves,” said Metro Officer Jacinto Rivera.
Yet activists say this already is a reality — that the majority of undocumented immigrants feel they should avoid all interactions with law enforcement and the court system. Despite assurances that targeting violators of immigration law is federal territory, stories about nonviolent offenders being turned in to ICE simply for asking local police for help are common in immigrant circles.
“We’d never say you shouldn’t turn in anybody,” said Francisco Morales, Nevada director of the Center for Community Change Action. “If someone is picked up for something violent or severe, yes. What we’re saying is, let’s not use resources — jail time, space, officers’ time — processing a jaywalker to be removed from the country.”
But many of the undocumented aren’t willing to take the risk, especially after seeing national stories like one from El Paso, Texas earlier this month, in which a woman reportedly was picked up by ICE after leaving the courthouse where she was obtaining a protective order against an abuser.
And fears aren’t limited to ICE. “People are afraid to bring their kids to school. It’s a real, real thing. People are worried, like, what if the parent gets picked up at work and the children become unattended and unprotected?” Morales said.
Criminals sometimes target undocumented immigrants because they know they are more likely to have reservations about calling police. The undocumented also are overwhelming reputable legal resources, opening the door for swindlers promising immigration assistance.
“There aren’t enough lawyers,” Silva said. “Call someone now and you get a three-, four-month wait. If you’re scared now, you are not going to wait that long. You are going to the guy down the street who says, ‘Give me $350 today and I’ll have something for you tomorrow morning.’ It’s the perfect crime: Victims won’t call the cops because they don’t want to call attention to themselves.”
All of this has an impact that Southern Nevada is just beginning to see.
“There is a terrible level of anxiety,” Kagan said. “It has an economic impact. It leads people to shut down. That’s not good for our community. ... We don’t need 8 percent of our population living in fear.” –April Corbin
Local police react to heightened immigration enforcement
Las Vegas is not a “sanctuary city,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo have said. In fact, Metro Police is one of 37 local agencies nationwide that collaborate with ICE through the 287(g) program. Metro’s agreement dates back to 2008, and an accord extending it to 2019 was signed by Lombardo in mid-June.
What is a sanctuary city?
Sanctuary cities in the U.S. shelter illegal immigrants. The term commonly refers to cities that apply no municipal funds to the enforcement of federal immigration laws. In 1996, Congress passed legislation that enabled cities to forge agreements with federal immigration authorities, and Las Vegas did in 2008, which is why Metro Police work with ICE to detain and turn over inmates eligible for deportation.
The agreement dictates that the identities of people arrested by Metro and booked at the Clark County Detention Center are run through federal databases to determine whether the person comes up as deportable. If so, once the inmate is processed through the agency and answers for his or her local charges, a detainer is placed, giving ICE agents a 48-hour window for pickup. In December, Lombardo said that because of a lack of resources, these inmates often went free without being processed by federal agents.
But ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in an email statement that recently instituted changes include an expanded number of transportation runs to complete such custody transfers. Kice noted that collaboration between the agencies has led to the “identification and deportation of thousands of criminal aliens who posed a potential threat to public safety.”
Memos released this week by the Department of Homeland Security indicate 287(g) will be expanded, though it’s unclear how that might affect what is required of existing partners.
“I absolutely agree with the removal of the worst of the worst,” Lombardo said of enforcement targeting unauthorized immigrants with criminal history. “I don’t think that anyone will argue with you with that, whether you’re on the left or the right. But when you start dipping down to people who committed a traffic infraction, and because they’re foreign born you’re making a decision to remove them, I think it’s ridiculous as far as resources and ability to even do that.”
The Trump administration’s stance hasn’t changed how North Las Vegas police operate, spokesman/Officer Aaron Patty said, emphasizing that immigration is a federal issue. The city’s residents shouldn’t be fearful during any interaction with police, whether it’s during a traffic stop or while reporting crime, said Patty, adding: “We are not going into homes and pulling people out.”
In Henderson, the police department doesn’t have an agreement with ICE, and no officers have undergone training, city spokeswoman Michelle French said.
Despite police reassurances, Metro Capt. Sasha Larkin said misinformation is a problem.
“What the officers are responsible for is enforcing the law. The officers are not a part of creating the law,” Larkin said. “Our police officers do not ask about immigration status. They don’t arrest based on immigration status. They don’t detain based on immigration status. They don’t make decisions based on immigration status. That’s a very important message for the public to understand. That is not our job. We are not federal agents; we are not ICE agents.”
Metro’s formal efforts to develop relationships with minority communities, through the Office of Community Engagement, extend over a decade. It “helps the department reach out to communities that otherwise don’t have a voice or have a connection to the police department.” Each community has its own needs and expectations, Larkin said, and the department keeps that in mind when training officers. To counter racial profiling, officers are taught to look for suspicious behavior rather than physical stereotypes. “Our goal is to get communities that aren’t used to seeing us to make a shift,” Larkin said.
A trusting community cooperates with law enforcement to report crime. The fear of deportation erodes that, but it was present decades before Trump took office, Larkin said. What happens when communities lose that connection with local police? Ferguson, Mo., Larkin answered, and “people that get radicalized in their mom’s basement because they’re alone and isolated and they develop a true hatred for everything government- and uniform-bound.”
Metro spokeswoman/Officer Laura Meltzer gave an example of what could happen if an immigrant community loses trust of police. “If you have a whole segment of society that is afraid to come forward, who is a victim of a crime and is afraid to come forward, then they can be victimized by criminals in our society,” she said. “And that’s a pretty scary thing, when as a police department you’re charged with the safety of the community.” –Ricardo Torres-Cortez
Undocumented encouraged to seek legal advice and 'speak frankly'
“More people are fearful about their status,” local immigration attorney Rolando Rex Velasquez said, reflecting on President Donald Trump’s actions over the past two weeks. Since Trump’s inauguration, Velasquez said calls to his office have risen sharply. After seven years as an immigration attorney representing the government in deportation proceedings in New York, he has worked for the other side for 15 years. “I did see that people needed good-quality help on the defense side.”
Immigration attorney Jocelyn Cortez of Las Vegas' De Castroverde Law Group echoed Velasquez, saying fears reached a “fever pitch” after Trump’s executive orders were announced. Her office not only has seen an uptick in phone calls and consultation appointments, but the type of clients with immigration worries has broadened. “I worry about how the families will be affected in terms of children who may be displaced because mom or dad is getting detained and expelled from the United States,” Cortez said. “I think it has much bigger repercussions than we’re probably prepared to understand at this point.”
Raids haven’t yet happened in Las Vegas, immigration attorney Rolando Rex Velasquez said, but others reported around the country may be foreshadowing. “The administration will likely become very aggressive with immigration enforcement,” he said, “so that has made the community very hysterical. ... I would not be surprised if there was some kind of enforcement action being planned (locally) right now.” But that planning includes ICE ensuring proper detention space and clarity on whom they’re targeting. “They don’t just go out and sweep the neighborhood,” Velasquez said. “They actually go looking for specific individuals. That’s how they try to catch people.”
Cortez recommended that immigrants worried about their status reach out to established and experienced immigration law practitioners and “speak frankly” with them. There may be a remedy available that can be explored that isn’t known to the client, she said, and those who may be affected should be proactive while they’re not detained. Her other recommendations:
• Prepare an emergency plan and important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates or the biography page of a passport. Tenga listos sus documentos importantes, como certificados de nacimiento, matrimonio o la página biográfica de su pasaporte.
• Save money. Funds also will come in handy if you have to hire an attorney or post bail. Unlike the criminal justice system, the immigration system allows attorney representation but doesn’t provide it. Ahorre dinero en caso de tener que pagar fianza o contratar a un abogado. El sistema de inmigración no le proporciona la representación legal, como el sistema de justicia criminal de los Estados Unidos. Solo se permite la representación de abogados contratados por usted.
• Stay out of trouble with the law. Evite delitos y problemas con la ley. “Keep our noses clean,” Cortez said, and make sure “we don’t get into trouble and that we don’t give anybody a reason to look for us, and just hold tight and hopefully the storm will pass.” –Ricardo Torres-Cortez
The Mexican Consulate steps in
The same day President Donald Trump signed executive orders on immigration enforcement and plans to build a border wall, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto spoke to Mexican nationals and migrants in the U.S. and informed them he’d mobilized the Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary’s office to beef up resources at the 50 consulates there.
“They will become authentic defense structures to extend protection to Mexican migrants” and make sure their rights are respected, Peña Nieto said. “Our communities in the U.S. are not alone.”
Five days later, it was announced that the Mexican government had earmarked about $50 million to extend legal help to Mexican migrants in the U.S., the Associated Press reported. The Mexican consul in Las Vegas could not be reached for comment on how the resources may be applied here. If you are a Mexican citizen: Si eres ciudadano Mexicano:
1. Register your American-born children with the Mexican Consulate. Registre a sus hijos nacidos en Estados Unidos en el Consulado Mexicano. 2. Staff at the consulate can direct you to reliable immigration lawyers and other resources. El personal en el consulado puede dirigirle a abogados de inmigración confiables y otros recursos.
What rights do unauthorized people have in the U.S.?
Regardless of how people make their way into the country, they’re guaranteed the same unalienable rights as citizens are under the U.S. Constitution, said ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Amy Rose. The notable exception is the right to vote. Rights include: La Constitución de los Estados Unidos le otorga los mismos derechos a usted que a cualquier otra persona en este país sin importar su estado migratorio, según la Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles (ACLU). La notable excepción es el derecho al voto. Eso incluye:
• To remain silent when confronted by law enforcement. El derecho a mantener el silencio cuando es confrontado por oficiales de la ley.
• Protection against unlawful search and seizure. La protección contra la búsqueda de sus pertenencias y su detención sin una orden de la corte.
• The right to due process in the judicial system. El derecho al debido proceso en el sistema judicial.
ACLU recommendations if immigration authorities are at your door (Recomendaciones de la ACLU en caso que agentes de ICE llegen a su casa)
1. Don’t open the door. No abra la puerta.
2. Ask why they’re there (you have a right to ask for an interpreter). Pregunteles por qué están allí (tiene el derecho pedir un intérprete).
3. If they ask to enter, ask for a warrant signed by a judge and have them slip it through a window or under the door. Si ellos le piden entrar, pidales una orden firmada por un juez y que se la deslicen a través de una ventana o por debajo de la puerta.
4. If they don’t present a warrant, ask them to leave information at your door (warrant forms I-200 and I-205 do not give agents the right to enter your home). Si no le presentan una orden, pídales que dejen información en su puerta (formas de orden I-200 y I-205 no dan derecho a los agentes a entrar a su casa).
5. If they enter anyway, remain calm, tell them they don’t have your permission to search, and tell everyone to remain silent. Si ellos logran entrar, mantenga la calma, dígales que no tienen permiso para buscar, y diga a todos los habitantes de la casa que permanezcan en silencio.
6. If they detain you, ask to speak to your corresponding consulate. Don’t give authorities false documents; do ask to speak to your lawyer and request bail. Si es detenido, pida hablar con el consulado correspondiente con su país nativo. No les dé a las autoridades documentos falsos, pida hablar con su abogado y solicite una fianza.
7. Do not sign anything without a lawyer’s advice. The “United We Dream” organization further recommends recording any interaction with ICE agents (outside federal property), and documenting everything, including badge numbers, number of agents present and what type of vehicles they’re driving. No firme nada sin el consejo de su abogado. La organización “United We Dream” recomienda grabar cualquier interacción con agentes de ICE (fuera de la propiedad federal) y documentar todo, incluyendo los números de los placas de los agentes, el numero de agentes presentes y qué tipo de vehículos que están manejando.
What Nevada leadership is saying
U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a former undocumented immigrant from Mexico, wants to be one of 18 U.S. Representatives co-sponsoring House Resolution 496, The Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act, which would advance the order started by the Obama administration in June 2012. Introduced Jan. 12, the bill would protect the current provisions of the DACA program, making them law instead of just a presidential order. Kihuen had not yet joined on the bill as of Feb. 20, as his spokesman Dave Chase said the first-term Democratic congressman was waiting to pair with a Republican on the effort.
“What (President Trump) fails to understand is that we are a nation of immigrants that thrives and grows with our diversity,” Kihuen said in a statement. “I am a perfect example. In fact, it was President Trump’s favorite President, Ronald Reagan, whose 1986 immigration reform allowed me and my family to stay and become citizens.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said that while he believes Trump’s immigration policies illustrate the president’s core initiative to “secure the nation,” Sandoval said a leaked 11-page White House document published by the Associated Press suggesting that up to 100,000 National Guard troops would be used to help round up illegal immigrants in 11 states — including Nevada — was not appropriate.
While the leaked documents were called “false” by the White House, they grant the final decision on whether to mobilize the National Guard to the governors of the 11 affected states. Sandoval said, if given the chance, he wouldn’t let the National Guard round up immigrants in Nevada.
“I recognize that we have a very diverse population in our state and we have to respond to that.”
While Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman advocates for “full inclusion, compassion, equality and respect,” she reiterated in a Las Vegas Sun editorial this month that the city is not one of about 30 “sanctuary cities” nationwide and will follow federal recommendations for reporting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While police are instructed not to profile and detain immigrants on perceived immigration status, law-abiding citizens have been and will continue to be in good standing in the city of Las Vegas. But Goodman notes, like in nearly all major metropolitan cities across the U.S., when an undocumented immigrant commits a crime, ICE is notified, and authorities will determine whether an undocumented criminal is eligible for deportation.
“I strongly believe the solution to our immigration issues is to find a pathway to citizenship for those in our country who came here for the same reasons many of our ancestors did: to create a better life for themselves and their families,” Goodman wrote. “That is the American dream, and it should be open to all willing to come to our country, our state, our city to build a community.”
For North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, the high immigrant population is a “valued” part of the community he oversees.
With over 37 percent of the city’s residents of Hispanic ancestry, according to the most recent census data, North Las Vegas has the highest population density of Latinos among any city in Nevada. Plans to protect immigrants in the event of amped-up deportation, while still following federal laws, are still in the works.
“We are a compassionate city that values each of our residents, and we are concerned about how the recent executive orders will impact families and our communities,” Lee said. “This is a human rights issue, and I am in discussions with community leaders regarding how best to respect the law and protect the interests of our entire community.”
THE BASICS OF THE CONFLICT NATIONWIDE
What is the current stance on illegal immigration?
In 2016, ICE removed 240,255 people, with 174,923 apprehended at or near the border or ports of entry. The leading countries of origin for removals were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
In tandem with stepping up enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security released a Q&A breaking down its plan to implement the president’s executive order. Among other things, enforcement bodies will:
1. End “catch-and-release” policies that allowed immigrants subject to deportation to stay. “ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.” 2. Prioritize individuals deemed most dangerous or at risk of flight until detention center capabilities are increased. 3. Hire 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 5,000 more Border Patrol agents. 4. Partner with the Department of Justice to “surge” the deployment of immigration judges and asylum officers to process more cases faster. 5. Deport anyone who crossed the border illegally through Mexico back there, regardless of his or her country of origin. 6. Prosecute parents who smuggle their children into the country. 8. Start the planning process for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. 9. Expand the 287(g) program, which empowers participating local officers to act as immigration agents.
If someone is deported, can he or she legally come back?
In the 1990s, Congress created a penalty for those who unlawfully spend time in the U.S. Depending how long their unauthorized stay was, they are barred from visiting for three or 10 years. Legal forgiveness is available in certain situations, such as showing that if you can't get your visa, a U.S. relative will suffer “extreme hardship.” Eso depende de cuánto tiempo permaneció ilegalmente en el país. El gobierno americano usualmente prohíbe el regreso para tres o 10 años. Hay ciertas excepciones, incluyendo, si puede comprobar que mantenerse en su país de origen le pondría a un familiar americano en “extrema dureza.”
Who is at highest risk of deportation?
Among the unauthorized, those targeted by ICE:
• Have been convicted of any criminal offense, charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved, or committed acts constituting a chargeable criminal offense
• Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency
• Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits
• Are subject to a final order of removal but who have not complied with the legal obligation to depart the United States or, in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security
Violent criminals and recent border-crossers were at high risk of deportation, while low-level offenders and longtime residents who otherwise abided by the law were not prioritized. Still, a record number of unauthorized immigrants were deported during the Obama administration — more than 2.5 million through 2015.
“Collateral arrests” of unauthorized immigrants who happen to be in the same place as those targeted by raids have been a goal of ICE’s union, which supported Trump’s candidacy, and that goal is manifesting. A recent New York Times story on the deportation of a Phoenix woman who was complying with a longtime arrangement with immigration enforcement encapsulated support for Trump's approach: "(They) say that the deportations were long overdue, and would stop unauthorized immigrants from taking jobs from citizens, even if it meant that painful deportations would be taking place more often."
Are those previously protected under DACA safe?
While DHS officials have said that the 750,000 people protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be exempt from stepped-up enforcement, advocates remain worried.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant brought into the U.S. as a child, was recently arrested by immigration authorities in Seattle. It marks the first time under the Trump administration that agents have detained a Dreamer, young Americans brought illegally into the country by their parents and granted temporary amnesty by President Barack Obama in 2012.
An ICE statement labeled Medina “a self-admitted gang member,” and his DACA protections were stripped amid deportation proceedings. It’s unclear whether this case will be an isolated incident as the Trump administration solidifies its stance on DACA.
According to Vox, “Trump administration officials have drafted an executive order that would phase out the program over two years, making DACA recipients deportable (and no longer able to work legally) once their current grants expire. But negotiations over whether Trump should actually sign it appear to be ongoing.”
What are some legal avenues for unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S.?
U.S. immigration law offers few options for those who’ve entered the country illegally to change their status. Digital forum AllLaw detailed these approaches:
Asylum and refugee status: Special legal protections for people who’ve left their home countries for safety reasons and are afraid to go back. You must apply within one year of your entry or the expiration of your authorized stay, and demonstrate that you have been persecuted (or fear that) in your country based on “race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.”
Temporary Protected Status: Offered to nationals of certain countries during times when returning would be unsafe for anyone, whether due to war or a natural disaster. While approval of TPS is not amnesty (forgiveness) for your immigration offenses, unauthorized immigrants who are approved are granted legal status for a maximum of 18 months.
Cancellation of Removal: A way to avoid deportation and receive a green card, if you can prove (with a lawyer’s help) that you have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 10 years and have been a “person of good moral character” during that entire time; that your removal would result in “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to family members who are legal residents; and that you aren’t disqualified from cancellation (for example, if you have committed various crimes or been a member of the Communist party).
Legitimate marriage to a U.S. citizen: Becoming an “immediate relative” of a legal citizen makes you legal and eligible to apply for a green card — if you didn’t enter the country illegally. If your documentation expired, you can apply for “adjustment of status” But if you crossed the border without stopping at a checkpoint, the only way a marriage will ensure your citizenship is through a number of complicated exceptions.
If you served the U.S. military honorably in certain wars — from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom — you can apply for citizenship without even applying for a green card first. But you must have while on U.S. territory, such as the Canal Zone, American Samoa or a noncommercial U.S. ship.
A SNAPSHOT OF NEVADA’S IMMIGRANTS
Historical trends in immigration to Nevada, by leading nationality:
1864: Nevada becomes a state
1890: Census records destroyed in fire
According to the Migration Policy Institute: “Restrictive immigration legislation in 1921 and 1924, coupled with the Great Depression and World War II, led to a sharp drop in new arrivals. As a result, the foreign-born share steadily declined between the 1930s and 1970s, reaching a record low of approximately 5 percent in 1970.”
Roughly 558,000 Nevadans are foreign-born, or close to 1 in 5.
The state is more than 19 percent foreign-born — No. 5 in the U.S., according to the 2013 Census — and Clark County stands at more than 22 percent. Both beat the 2013 national average of about 13 percent. Latinos and Asians make up a third of Nevada’s population, and thousands of refugees from all over the world live here, too.
Roughly 261,000 of Nevada’s foreign-born are naturalized citizens, and 297,000 are noncitizens.
Origins of foreign-born Nevadans, as of 2015
313,790: Latin America (South America, Central America, Mexico, Caribbean)
9,094: North America (Canada, Bermuda, Greenland, St. Pierre, Miquelon)
Top 5 industries by share of immigrant workers
Partnership for a New American Economy finds that immigrants are most drawn to careers in these fields:
39.2% tourism, hospitality, recreation
38.5% general services
34.5% administrative support
The peak of the unauthorized population
Nevada was one of seven states where the population of unauthorized immigrants declined between 2009 and 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. The number of unauthorized immigrants in the state peaked in 2007, at 240,000.
Just in Las Vegas, Paradise and Henderson, an estimated 170,000 unauthorized immigrants live. Throughout the state, they represent 10.4 percent of the labor force and their children make up 17.6 percent of the K-12 student body. About 70 percent of these undocumented Nevada residents are Mexican.
What happens when someone is taken into federal custody?
1. If a person is picked up by a federal agent, he or she is taken to the main immigration office in downtown Las Vegas. 2. The detainee is interviewed by agents who run his or her information through databases and take fingerprints. 3. If the detainee is deportable, he or she is booked into a detention center. 4. If the person is not involved in previous immigration court proceedings, paperwork is issued to start the removal process. The length of that depends on how much the detainee fights the case. He or she should expect a first court appearance within two weeks. If the detainee is able to make bail, the court process slows down. 5. Those who don’t qualify for or can’t afford bond in Southern Nevada are kept in the Henderson Detention Center or at the Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump until removal or until they win the case. The person may seek a review of custody status six months after the ruling. 6. The appearances in front of an immigration judge, who does not work for ICE, are usually conducted via teleconference. The judge is located at the Las Vegas Immigration Court, 3365 Pepper Lane, white the detainee sits at either the detention center or ICE headquarters. 7. The deportation process varies with the country of origin. Mexican nationals, who are typically transported by bus, are usually dropped off at an undisclosed border location. The detainee is allowed to carry a suitcase that weighs under 40 pounds that is dropped off by a relative who can also provide a cell phone or phone card. 8. Visitation at the detention centers is allowed.
ICE does not track local deportation statistics. Las Vegas, and the entire state, fall under the umbrella of a regional office in Salt Lake City, Utah, which includes Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana. For the federal fiscal year (Oct. 1 to Sept. 30), here are the regional numbers going back to 2013:
2016 fiscal year: Total deportations – 1,731, including 1,407 “criminal aliens”
2015 fiscal year: Total deportations – 1,354, including 1,169 “criminal aliens”
2014 fiscal year: Total deportations – 1,769, including 1,429 “criminal aliens”
2013 fiscal year: Total deportations – 3,869, including 3,432 “criminal aliens”
IMPACTS OF IMMIGRANTS ON THE ECONOMY
At a campaign event last summer, Donald Trump claimed that undocumented immigrants cost the U.S. more than $113 billion a year. While the Trump campaign never sourced that data, it mirrors an estimate from a 2013 report from the Federation of American Immigration Reform, a group seeking to limit immigration in the U.S. Although the federation claims to be nonpartisan, the Southern Poverty Law Center classified it as a hate group in 2007 because of ties to white nationalism and white supremacy. Despite the questionable source, the report also has flaws in its methodology and bases the $113 billion estimate on an inflated number of illegal immigrants in the country (almost 2 million more than estimates released by the Department of Homeland Security, Pew Research Center and others).
So how much do undocumented immigrants actually cost taxpayers? In short, it’s not exactly clear. Estimates range from $85 billion on the high end to much lower. There is some controversy about whether these numbers can even be properly quantified. Regardless, the high estimates do not account for the billions of dollars in state and local taxes that undocumented immigrants pay annually, the billions of dollars in consumer power they yield, or their contributions to the workforce, among others. Here are just a few of the many costs and contributions.
Do they pay taxes?
“The best evidence suggests that at least 50 percent of undocumented immigrant households currently file income tax returns using Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs), and many who do not file income tax returns still have taxes deducted from their paychecks,” said the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy report (updated for 2016).
If all 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. were deported…
The manufacturing sector would shed 500,000 U.S. jobs, and private industry output would decline by between $381 billion and $623 billion.
$11.64 billion: Amount undocumented immigrants paid in state and local taxes nationally in 2013. (If granted full legal status, they would contribute $13.77 billion annually.)
$91 million: Amount undocumented immigrants paid in Nevada state and local taxes in 2013. (If granted full legal status, they would contribute more than $100 million annually.)
In the first three years following legalization, the “higher earning power of newly legalized workers … would generate $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue” at the federal level, according to a 2010 study from the North American Integration and Development Center at UCLA.
Tax revenue from immigrants compounds generation after generation
$775 billion: The amount of revenue immigrant-owned businesses contribute to U.S. gross domestic product. Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a new business as native-born citizens. In 2011, immigrants founded 28 percent of new U.S. businesses despite comprising about 12.9 percent of the total population that year. “Immigrant-owned businesses employ 1 out of every 10 U.S. workers at privately owned companies,” according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. In 2010, they generated more than $100 billion in income.
A 2016 report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that the average first-generation immigrant comes with a tax consequence, but the second and third generations contribute more revenue to the state than expenditures. These numbers reflect the net difference in how much the average immigrant in Nevada contributed to state and local funds (revenue) vs. how much they consumed (expenditure) from 2011 to 2013.
While first-generation immigrants generally consume more (they tend to have lower earning potential, more children, etc.), their children and grandchildren go on to make up for those costs, and then some.
$1,300: The net amount local and state governments lose per first-generation immigrant.
$1,000: The net amount gained per second-generation immigrant.
$1,950: The net amount gained per third-generation immigrant.
If all the undocumented immigrants working in agriculture in the U.S. were deported…
Estimated to hold between 50 and 80 percent of agriculture jobs, if unauthorized immigrants were removed it would cost the U.S. $60 billion in production.
Cost of deportations
On average, the cost per individual was $12,213 in fiscal year 2015.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Lori Haley said the agency tracked cost in terms of “average lifestyle cost to repatriate an alien outside of the United States — and this is from the time we identify the person all the way to the time that they are removed.” The average cost of just the transportation part of deporting an immigrant from the U.S. was $1,962. Haley said some deportees were transported via air, which drives up the average cost. Of those deported in 2016, 62.4 percent of the 240,255 total immigrants were Mexican nationals.
Other costs related to illegal immigration
The FAIR report, widely cited by opponents of immigration, also asserts that the annual U.S. expenditure on unauthorized immigrants breaks down to $1,117 per native-headed household. Education for the children of the unauthorized — 17.6 percent of the student population in Nevada in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center — constitutes the largest cost to taxpayers, which FAIR estimates at $52 billion annually, though many children of unauthorized residents are legal citizens entitled to public education.
During the 2013-14 academic year …
Nevada’s foreign students contributed more than $60 million to the state’s economy in tuition, fees and living expenses, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation contends that the expenditure on welfare and other services used by the unauthorized is more than double what they pay in taxes, due to their lower education level and earning potential on average, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce points out that “undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefit programs” such as welfare and food stamps. They are entitled to schooling and emergency medical care, offset by what their payroll taxes contribute to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits they cannot tap. And everyone pays sales tax, which the Nevada Department of Taxation says makes up about 30 percent of the revenue in the state’s general fund.
Sources: American Action Forum; American Farm Bureau Federation; Fiscal Policy Institute and Americas Society/Council of the Americas; Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy; NAFSA: Association of International Educators; Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia; The Partnership for a New American Economy; U.S. Census Bureau
With President Donald Trump taking strong actions to overhaul immigration enforcement and border security, some advocacy groups, activists and community members are digging in on the side of creating ways for people to correct and pay for their violations and have a chance to become citizens without being deported.
For those who favor arming the undocumented with information as they navigate their new reality, here are some essentials about where they can seek services without fear of being reported to ICE:
Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law enacted in 1986, anyone visiting an emergency room at a hospital — public or private — must be stabilized and treated, regardless of their ability to pay, their insurance or immigration status.
University Medical Center spokeswoman Danita Cohen said the central valley hospital will only ask an emergency room patient his or her name before pursuing treatment. “We might ask that just so we can address them more personally,” Cohen said.
Ditto for the Valley Health System, whose major hospitals include Valley, Summerlin, Henderson, Spring Valley, Desert Springs and Centennial Hills hospitals, said spokeswoman Gretchen Papez. “All patients have the same rights and responsibilities, regardless of citizenship.”
Both spokeswomen confirmed that under no conditions would their hospitals know or track whether someone is undocumented. But in the event a patient is treated for a gunshot or stab would — or “tied to a crime” — Metro Police would be notified and would handle the criminal aspect of the situation.
Transportation security is the sole mission of the Transportation Security Administration, according to spokeswoman Lorie Dankers. They will not detain you unless they believe you pose a threat to the airport terminals or flights.
Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. can show any of the following forms of ID to pass through the TSA security checkpoint: 1. Border crossing card. 2. Foreign government-issued passport. 3. Transportation worker identification credential.
Passengers without a valid form of ID will be asked to complete forms with their name and current address, and TSA officers “may ask additional questions to confirm your identity,” Dankers said. As long as a person’s identity is deemed “confirmed” by TSA, the department will allow them to travel.
Undocumented immigrants cannot obtain a Real ID, standard driver’s license or ID card from the Nevada DMV because they don’t have the identity documents (U.S. Social Security card, birth certificate and/or U.S. passport) needed to obtain the ID, DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said.
If an undocumented immigrant meets the requirements of NRS 483.291, which was passed with the intent to provide them the opportunity to drive legally in Nevada, they can obtain a Driver Authorization Card, which is labeled “Not valid for identification.” But that card could still be used by TSA to help prove a person’s identity and grant them access through security.
If an undocumented immigrant had a criminal history, that information wouldn’t show up on DMV computers, and the department is forbidden by law to run criminal history checks on license applicants, Malone said.
If enforcement crossed any lines, who could stop it?
If Nevada officials or federal representatives felt actions were overreaching, several scenarios exist to block or temporarily pause such action:
Governors: According to a leaked executive order draft calling for up to 100,000 National Guard troops to assist with rounding up and deporting unauthorized immigrants in 11 states, including Nevada, the governor’s office of each state will have the ultimate say in whether to deploy its respective forces. Asked Feb. 17 whether he’d authorize Nevada’s National Guard to deport unauthorized immigrants, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said such an initiative was not appropriate.
Federal judges: They can rule deportations unconstitutional. Such rulings could halt or completely do away with executive orders relating to immigration.
ICE agents or local police: While unlikely, immigration officers could simply turn a blind eye to increased regulations on unauthorized immigrants. Metro spokesman Lt. Steve Summers said while it would be “very unlikely” that officers would not enforce any new regulations, he added that a “compassion element exists” within officers and their respective communities. “Our officers have a strong partnership with the communities they work in.”
UNLV and CSN
Both UNLV President Len Jessup and CSN President Michael Richards have issued statements in support of undocumented students and those protected under DACA.
“The university is strongly supportive of its DACA and undocumented students and will continue to do everything in its power to provide them, and all of UNLV’s students, an environment of safety and success on campus,” Jessup said. “UNLV does not use citizenship status as a basis for admission.”
In a Dec. 9 post on his blog on CSN’s website, Richards said: "We value the contributions of our undocumented students and we call upon the federal government to uphold, continue and expand the DACA program."
Both presidents signed a Pomona College-sponsored “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students” along with more than 600 university presidents across the country. Neither UNLV nor CSN collects information from applicants related to citizenship — with the exception of those students seeking federal financial aid or international students on certain visas.
Clark County Public Schools
Under current federal law, the Clark County School District cannot share private information of its students unless directed to by a warrant or court order, district spokeswoman Michelle Booth said. CCSD does not track students’ or their families’ citizenship status, so the school district wouldn’t have that information anyway, she added.
To enroll at a CCSD school, students are required just to prove their residency at an address through documentation as simple as an electric bill, and present a birth certificate, Booth said. Students without a birth certificate can still be accepted into the school system and given a “grace period” to obtain that information. The school district refers international students or those displaced from their homes to local consulates or service providers that can assist them in obtaining documentation.
CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, in a Feb. 13 blog post, wrote: “I don’t know the immigration status of those students or their families. I want to assure our students that we are not sharing their personal information, that we are not singling any students out and that we are not going through your records.” –Chris Kudialis
Claiming sanctuary goes back to the ancient Greeks, who created a network of sacred places that were refuges for debtors, slaves and criminals.
Religious institutions have notably offered sanctuary, though it has never been recognized by state or federal law; the only legal equivalent in most places is the granting of political asylum in embassies and consulates. Here’s a sampling of what local church leaders are saying:
• Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada says that church ushers refrain from calling ICE on people suspected of being undocumented. They also help connect people with legal representation, train them to know their rights and advocate for immigration reform, but Edwards stressed that each congregation makes its own decision. “Many of our congregations are actively engaged in ministry to immigrants in keeping with the teachings of the Episcopal Church and the policy of this diocese to “welcome the stranger and the alien in our land,” as the Bible teaches,” Edwards said in an email.
• A spokeswoman from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas said she was “unaware” of any churches offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
• “I have always helped every individual who has come to me. But this approach is different than creating a synagogue-wide approach. This issue has not bubbled up in our synagogue,” said Rabbi Sanford Akselradof Congregation Ner Tamid in an email.
• Rabbi Felipe Goodman of Temple Beth Sholom said he is not in a position to offer sanctuary to the undocumented unless their lives are in danger, because they must “respect the law of the land.” –Camalot Todd
What can legal citizens do to help?
Get involved in or donate to local advocacy groups that provide guidance, resources and a powerful voice to unauthorized immigrants, such as:
Become an active bystander:
Various advocacy groups are offering tips to those who might be on the scene during an ICE raid. Here are some basics that might help your friends and family members even if they’ve been arrested and detained:
• Film the interaction, but don’t engage.
• Write down the badge numbers of involved officers.
• Note the officers’ words and actions. If they appear to go too far in their forcefulness or violation of the person’s rights, seek an attorney’s guidance.
The best chance an unauthorized person has of securing good legal footing is working proactively to correct immigration violations. If you know someone, help him or her research and connect with a reputable immigration lawyer.
Talk to your representatives:
Share your opinions with your elected officials, from local and state leadership to the White House.