Las Vegas immigrant rights groups will join those in several other U.S. cities Wednesday to protest what they call the “militarization” of the U.S.-Mexico border.
At least 100 people are expected for the 7 p.m. rally outside New York New York Casino, said Carlos Silva, statewide director of Nevadans for Immigration Reform. The group opposes the near-doubling of border patrol agents and use of the National Guard to secure the border. It says the proposal will only make life more difficult for the average Latino who lives along the border and travels between the two countries on a daily basis.
“It’s silly what’s being proposed,” said Silva. “We’re talking about an entire landscape that’s going to change and make life more difficult because of a few politicians who are turning the entire affair into a political game.”
The Las Vegas protest will coincide with similar nationwide rallies expected to be held in Tucson, El Paso, San Diego, San Francisco and Houston, Silva said.
The proposed build-up is among the key requirements to passage of an immigration reform bill now pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Congress considers an overhaul in the country’s immigration policy — allowing a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 12 million undocumented in the next decade, provided they pay their taxes and stiff penalties — some members have said they will only vote for the reform if border security is beefed up significantly.
“Our current immigration system is one that produces human tragedy … Any meaningful immigration reform must secure the border first if we are truly going to fix the problem,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a prepared statement on the U.S. Senate floor a few weeks ago.
The proposed measures include adding 20,000 more Border Patrol agents to the 21,000 currently deployed; using the National Guard; installing 85 fixed towers and 488 remote video surveillance systems, and employing 15 black hawk helicopters and 18 drones along a 2,000-mile stretch from Texas to California.
Nevada, with its Latino population of nearly 30 percent, is increasingly becoming a hub for immigrant rights groups.
The Silver State was recognized by Congress as a “border state” in a June vote that now allows Nevada a seat on the Border Security Commission. If border security becomes highly ineffective within five months of passage of the immigration reform legislation, the commission will be created to monitor the situation, said Chandler Smith, a spokeswoman for Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
Heller and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., were instrumental in adding an amendment that would give Nevada a seat on the commission. Cruz was the only U.S. senator who voted against the amendment.
Las Vegas, with its bustling tourism industry, is among the hubs for employment of workers from Mexico and Central and South America, Silva said, adding that the city ranks right up there with Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix and Houston.
In addition, Nevada is also closer to the U.S.-Mexico border than either Dallas or San Francisco, two cities in “true” border states, he said.
“The Latino influence in Las Vegas is not to be underestimated,” Silva continued.
Ivon Meneses, a casino porter at the Wynn Hotel and Resort, plans to show up at the rally.
The one-time resident of Sonoita, an Arizona border town across from Sonoyta, Mexico, is familiar with the problems of frequent, legal border crossings.
She said that it’s important to speak out against the militarization, but “mostly I’m showing up to speak up in favor of immigration reform.”
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.