Reid, Heller talk immigration in joint interview

CARSON CITY – U.S. Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller said in a joint interview that the nation would not have the current crisis with the flood of people crossing the border from Mexico and Central America if the House had passed the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill.

In a joint interview on the Nevada NewsMakers program, Reid said he is hopeful that after the November election, GOP House Speaker John Boehner will let the bill come up for a vote in a lame-duck session.

If the bill that was passed by the Senate came to a vote in the House it would pass, Reid predicted.

Heller agreed.

“If you were to bring that immigration reform bill to the House floor I do believe it would pass,” he said.

Immigration reform was one of several topics discussed by Reid and Heller in the joint interview taped Monday, which will air in two parts over the next few days.

Reid, D-Nev., said the immigration bill that passed the Senate more than a year ago was bipartisan. But it went to the “graveyard” of legislation in the House, he said.

“Had that legislation had passed, we wouldn’t be having this problem that we’re having today,” Reid said.

The Senate bill would have created more resources to deal with the flood of children and others coming across the border from Mexico and Central America, he said.

Both senators voted for the bill.

But both senators also agreed that the flood of unaccompanied children arriving in the U.S. daily should be returned to their parents where possible.

Heller, R-Nev., said that if there is an issue where refugee status might be appropriate, then that can be considered.

Reid agreed, saying resources are needed to evaluate the cases to find out if some deserve refugee status due to the murder of their parents or other issues such as cases of sex trafficking. Refugee status is likely in some cases, he said.

“Those children that are in that situation should be able to stay here; those that aren’t, send them home,” Reid said.

Reid said he has an improved relationship with Boehner and that the speaker believes as well that the Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The reason he has not brought the issue forward is because of members of his caucus who don’t want to vote on the issue, Reid said.

Heller said most Americans and Nevadans are not happy with the current situation.

“We have an opportunity to fix it, had we fixed it, as Sen. Reid said, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he said.

Reid declined to comment on what President Obama might do through an executive order to address the immigration crisis.

Heller said he hopes that Obama does not take executive action because it is better to go through Congress.

“Clearly there is frustration,” he said. “But we have to be very, very careful as we move this debate forward. And clearly both of us would like to see more get done at the legislative level. And I think the American people would like to see it done that way also.”

Reid said the president has taken action because Congress has failed to act.

“I agree with Dean,” Reid said. “I think a legislative fix is much better than an administrative fix. But how long do you wait?”

The half-hour interviews will air Tuesday and Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. on Channel 123 in Las Vegas. They will also air Saturday at 5:30 a.m. and Sunday at 5 a.m. on Channel 3.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.