Sen. Reid and chamber leaders tout immigration reform as boost for Las Vegas tourism

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and officials from several Southern Nevada chambers of commerce on Tuesday plan to hold a news conference in Las Vegas to promote immigration reform as a job creator that will boost the Nevada economy.

Last week in Washington, Reid said the Obama administration would have to act administratively to slow deportations of illegal immigrants if the House doesn’t pass immigration reform this summer.

The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill nearly a year ago, expanding visas and providing a potential path to U.S. citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States now.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he would like to act on immigration reform this year, but he has to overcome opposition from the conservative wing of the Republican party in a mid-term election year.

“We’ve waited 329 days, we’re willing to wait another six weeks,” Reid said last Thursday in Congress, referring to the number of days that have passed since the Senate approved the immigration reform bill. “But at the end of six weeks, if something hasn’t been done, then there’s gonna have to be a move made. And it’s too bad we have to do that, because we all know things can be done administratively, but it’s better to change the law.”

President Barack Obama is coming under increasing pressure from immigration advocates who are upset that his administration has so far deported more than 2 million people. Obama has ordered a review led by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is examining the administration’s immigration enforcement policies.

Republicans have said they don’t trust Obama to carry out reforms Congress approves. So Reid has backed an idea from U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to pass a bill this year, but have it take effect in January 2017. That’s when a new president — Democrat or Republican — will take over the White House.

“To be clear, delaying immigration reform is not my preference,” Reid said. “But I feel so strongly that this bill needs to get done I’m willing to show flexibility.”

Reid’s office said he will be joined at the Tuesday news conference by officials with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, the Asian Chamber of Commerce and by Rosemary Vassiliadis, the director of aviation at McCarran International Airport.

Reid has said that a new immigration law would increase international tourism. The Senate bill, for example, would boost the number of Customs and Border Patrol agents who process international visitors, he said.

About 20 percent of the 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year are international. Tourism accounts for about $45 billion of the Las Vegas economy and employs nearly 400,000.

“Increasing international tourism and visitation to the United States create jobs,” Reid has said.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.