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Bipartisan Nevada group calls for immigration reform

A group of Nevada business leaders, including former Gov. Bob List, came together on Wednesday to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

The group released a report in Las Vegas from the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national bipartisan organization with more than 500 officials and business leaders pushing for immigration reforms.

Among the report’s findings: The state’s immigrant population is 19 percent of the overall population, which amounts to 548,186. That’s up from 8.7 percent in 1990.

Nevada immigrants make up 26 percent of the state’s workforce, taking up a larger share because nearly three-quarters of Nevada’s foreign-born population is working age. Only 48.4 percent of Nevada residents born in the United States are working age.

“Immigration reform is long overdue,” said Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, adding, “America is missing out on an economic boom.”

“We’re a nation of immigrants,” said List, who is a Republican. “We’ve all come from someplace else, at least our families have.”

Moving forward, List said, comprehensive reforms need to include securing the borders, developing a better system for employers to verify the legal status of employees, and creating a policy that allows undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows.

Though it’s an election season, the organization isn’t endorsing particular candidates in the presidential race or other races.

Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said that the largest industry in Nevada — tourism and hospitality — would benefit from immigration reforms.

“We’re in the hospitality industry, so we come from a culture of making people feel welcome,” she said.

Michael Wixom, vice chairman of the state Board of Regents who is seeking re-election, said that “there’s been so much noise over the past year or past 18 months about immigration” and “many of the underlying policy issues have been lost in that avalanche of noise.”

Students on visas can to enter the United States to attend universities, but “we have to send almost all of them home after their training.”

“From a higher education perspective, I think it’s critical we push forward immigration reform,” he said.

Irma Aguirre, owner of El Sombrero, a Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas, said reforms are needed and would help the restaurant industry.

“There are undocumented people that are working in the industry that really need to find a pathway to citizenship,” she said.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com. Find @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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