U.S. Rep. Dina Titus criticized House Republican leadership Monday for an unwillingness to put immigration reform to a vote.
Her comments, at a Las Vegas immigration informational fair, came on the same day President Barack Obama announced plans to force change in immigration policy via executive authority — meaning without Congressional approval.
“Until we can get immigration reform passed through Congress, we have to do all we can on a daily basis for individual families, to keep those families together,” said Titus, D-Nev.
The 60 or so who attended the event at the East Las Vegas Community Center heard a presentation and asked questions about how to renew or apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Started in 2012, DACA allows some undocumented students who came to the U.S. as children to apply for work permits, drivers’ licenses and to receive temporary relief from deportation. There is a $465 application fee, and applicants cannot have felonies or significant misdemeanors, including sex crimes, domestic abuse or drunken driving, on their records.
Among Titus’ goals, she said, is expanding DACA to include “mommies and daddies,” or adding families of students.
Representatives from the Mexican Consulate, the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Mi Familia Vota, a nonprofit that registers people to vote, talked with attendees at the event.
In Nevada, more than 8,600 DACA applicants have been approved to stay in the United States, according to the latest data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Julian Adem, Mexican Consul of Las Vegas, said the number of undocumented students who are eligible for DACA but don’t apply could be double the amount who have already been approved. But many don’t know they can apply.
“The message isn’t getting through,” said Adem, who said it’s not covered enough in the media or reaching the younger audience it’s intended for.
But not all young immigrant students can apply for DACA. It requires students to have stayed in the U.S. for five consecutive years before June 15, 2012.
“I arrived a few weeks too late,” said Dulce Valencia Sanchez.
Sanchez, 18, who does not qualify for DACA, said she felt discouraged from applying for college because of her undocumented status. Now she plans to attend either College of Southern Nevada or University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Blanca Gamez, a UNLV alum and DACA recipient, now advocates for immigration reform in Las Vegas.
“It changed my life — but not completely,” Gamez said about DACA. It allows students to work, but it doesn’t take the place of actual citizenship, which is still the goal, she said.
Titus’ sentiments echoed those of a Republican counterpart. U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., said Friday that Congress’ immigration reform plan is “on life support” as GOP leaders refuse to bring a vote during an election year.
Immigration services are the second biggest constituent case load for her staff behind veteran’s issues, Titus said.
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