Nevada is among the top five states in the nation when it comes to the influx of immigrants, and Sen. Cory Booker has been discussing the issue this week after announcing what his administration would do to deal with the immigration problems facing the country. Friday, he hosted a roundtable in Las Vegas with state lawmakers, local officials, and immigrant advocates.
"This is a conversation that is of utmost urgency. We have a panel here of folks who are, in my opinion, some of the bright lights in the nation for being activists around issues that are best for our country, issues that represent our values, and, frankly, the issues that are just helping to deal with what I see as a very, very dark period in American history," Booker said.
As you might expect, most of the opinions represented one side of this issue, but some of the testimony was dramatic and reflected the challenges facing immigrants, undocumented and otherwise.
"The script completely flips on them. And that's the biggest fear, is that if I don't have documentation and I go to a police officer to report something and instead of receiving that help, it gets turned around and I get looked at as the one that is not abiding by the law, " said Roxana Valladares, secretary-treasurer of SEIU Nevada Local 1107. "We see that with a lot of our workers. We have many of them that have been sexually abused, raped, and they still have to work under these employers, and that's something that we desperately need to fix in our country."
They know that they're third-class citizens. They don't necessarily have access to higher education because they can't get student loans. They might not be able to learn English in time, which is also going to impact whether or not they have access to education, right, because they have to be out of our schools by the time they're 18 because we just need them out," said Nevada Assemblywoman Selena Torres.
"It's a moral oppression. What we have now it's a moral oppression that I've seen in the Philippines, I've seen it here and that's why I do this job," said Grace Vergera-Mactal, executive director of SEIU Nevada Local 1107. "The fear is there. You know, even just filling out the census."
"This isn't a new problem in 2019 that we're incarcerating refugee children in institutions. It's not new that we're not using new avenues of having people in our community while they're waiting for a refugee application to be administered," said Nevada Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen. "When I worked at the Department of Justice back in 2003, we had those same problems, so this is something that I think needs to be addressed."
Booker said he’ll have more to say on immigration in the coming weeks, concentrating on what Congress can do. Friday marks the end of this Nevada swing. Booker will be in New Hampshire next week as he gears up for the next debate in Detroit at the end of the month.