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Kamala Harris talks immigration, minimum wage in Las Vegas

U.S. Sen. and presidential hopeful Kamala Harris returned to Las Vegas on Friday for a whirlwind day of campaign events touching on several key election issues: immigration, minimum wage and the rights of women and African-Americans.

The California Democrat summed up her candidacy during remarks at her third stop, an event in downtown Las Vegas hosted by Emerge America, which supports women weighing a run for public office. She said Americans are looking at their country and asking, “Who are we?”

“I think what all of us know is that part of the answer to that question is we are better than this,” Harris said. “And so this is a moment in time that requires us to fight again for the best of who we are, and fight we will.”

Harris began the day with an immigration roundtable at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law before heading to a McDonald’s restaurant in central Las Vegas, where striking workers encircled the building with a march demanding a $15 per hour wage and the right to unionize.

She then spoke at two evening events: The Emerge women’s event and the 100 Black Men of America conference gala at Caesars Palace.

Immigration roundtable

Harris toured UNLV’s immigration clinic, which offers legal assistance to those fighting deportation or various other legal citizenship issues, prior to meeting with a group consisting mostly of faculty, student leaders and local immigration advocates.

She promised that, if elected, she would issue executive orders on her first day to renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and expand its eligibility requirements. She would also defer deportation for veterans, as well as their spouses, siblings and children. Finally, she would remove the “barriers” keeping Dreamers from gaining citizenship, such as disqualifications for working without legal permission.

Harris pummeled the Trump administration for its handling of immigration issues, repeatedly mentioning the “children in cages” and families separated at the U.S.-Mexican border. She called for shifting resources from Immigration and Customs Enforcement into areas that process immigration applications.

As she has throughout her campaign, Harris drew from her experience as a prosecutor – first as San Francisco district attorney, then as California attorney general – in many of her answers. However, one audience member brought this record into question.

Shirley Sandoval, a volunteer with the ACLU’s Rights for All campaign, asked Harris about a a San Francisco policy that referred undocumented children accused of a felony to ICE.

Harris said it was a policy by then-mayor and now California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whom she said was being threatened by the Bush administration over San Francisco’s sanctuary city declaration.

“I do not support any policy that is about criminalizing children,” Harris said, before circling back to her immigration policy proposals.

After the event, Sandoval said she was satisfied with Harris’ answer.

McDonald’s strike

About 100 people – many wielding colorful signs demanding a $15 hourly wage and chanting slogans like “hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our wages super size” – swarmed the McDonald’s parking lot at Flamingo Road and Eastern Avenue.

The strike, organized by the Fight for 15 campaign that began demanding higher wages for fast-food workers in 2012, was supported by dozens of other union workers and advocates.

After Harris arrived, she took a point position behind a large banner and marched along with the group out of the parking lot and briefly onto Flamingo before settling on the intersection’s sidewalk.

Harris told the group that she worked at McDonald’s as a student, handling the ice cream and french fry stations. She noted that today, however, the majority of employees have families depending on them and do not bring home a livable wage.

“If we want to talk about these golden arches being a symbol of the best of America, well, the arches are falling short,” Harris said.

Several fast-food workers shared their fast-food stories with Harris, including Darla Garcia, who helped lead a simultaneous walk-out at a Wendy’s restaurant.

Garcia said workers are ordinarily capped at minimum wage, but she received a 25-cent raise to “keep quiet,” once rumors of the strike reached her managers.

“That $8.50 an hour is a starvation wage,” she said. “It’s a struggle with my kid. I have to choose whether to pay rent or car insurance or my utilities.”

Discussion with women

Harris did most of the talking at her early evening event hosted by Emerge America. During a nearly 30-minute speech, she touched on most of her key campaign proposals: a $15 minimum wage, a $13,500 annual salary increase for teachers, increased gun control and federal intervention against laws that restrict reproductive rights.

Many attendees wore red “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” buttons, and Harris promised it.

She said she would give Congress 100 days to pass a gun control bill with universal background checks and assault weapon bans before doing both by executive action. This action is needed, she said, because too many children are “traumatized” by school drills regarding mass-shooting scenarios.

After the event, Harris told reporters she was not worried about her current position in the latest polls, which have her slotted in fifth place in Nevada and fourth in her native California.

“The only poll that matters is on Election Day,” she said.

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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