Nevada's stake in border security

It appears the comprehensive immigration bill making its way through the Senate might finally get some teeth with regard to border security. Furthermore, if after five years those teeth turn out to be false and the Department of Homeland Security fails to sufficiently tighten the United States’ border with Mexico, a federal commission will form to ensure security improves.

Thanks to the bipartisan efforts of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Nevada will have a seat on that commission. Sen. Heller proposed an amendment to the immigration bill calling for Nevada representation on the high-level panel, and Sen. Reid rightly co-sponsored the amendment, which sailed through on an 89-9 vote Wednesday.

The initial legislation included spots for the governors of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, along with appointees of the president and congressional leaders, for a total of 10 seats.

Nevada has long been a hot spot of immigration concerns — the Las Vegas Valley is a single day’s drive from the border. The state should have had a seat on the commission all along, rather than having to push through an amendment to add an 11th spot. Federal immigration policy, or the lack thereof, has had a profound impact on Southern Nevada for the past 20 years. Putting aside ideological and political positions on immigration, there are major economic issues in Southern Nevada that effect everybody, citizens and undocumented immigrants alike.

To wit: There are about 45,000 Spanish-speaking English Language Learner students in the Clark County School District. A key bill from the just-completed state legislative session included $50 million for ELL programs, and the majority of that taxpayer cash will go to Clark County. Further, University Medical Center has been swimming in red ink for years, much of that the result of undocumented immigrants placing a major strain on the region’s only public hospital.

These examples — and there are many more like them — show Nevada has a critical interest in securing the border as part of immigration reform. We hope the border security commission is never formed, but it’s refreshing that Sen. Reid and Sen. Heller could come together to make sure Nevada has a voice, just in case.