Will Healthcare Victory Help Immigration Reform for Nevadans?

Our readers know that we spent much of the last year covering the fight to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system and how that issue could affect one that is of import to Nevada’s immigrant community. Just prior to President Obama’s signing of the healthcare reform bills, his poll numbers and those of the Democratic Party had fallen from post-election highs to less than 50%. In the weeks since Obama signed the healthcare changes into law, his approval rating has increased steadily; and perhaps more importantly, the self-confidence of the progressive movement that swelled from Lancaster, MA to Las Vegas, NV to elect the President marched back toward its 2009 levels. Have the President, Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid, and other Senate democrats learned from this experience? Do they have the courage and will to pass comprehensive immigration reforms this year?

Predicting what Congress will do and when is akin to reading tea leaves, predicting where the next volcano will erupt, or guessing which member of the Kremlin will be bleached out from photos with Josef Stalin. But here are some positive signs: Nevada’s Senator Reid, currently the majority leader of the Senate, is facing another tough re-election fight this November. Because of Reid’s vulnerability and the strength of the Latino vote in Nevada, Reid knows that he must get a bill passed in the Senate or at least close to a vote before the November election in order to have any chance of re-election. Another bitter-sweet movement toward federal immigration reform is the new Arizona immigration law: it asks the police to profile Arizona residents based on their race, color, and command of English in order to inquire about their immigration status. President Obama called the law “misguided” and the backlash against this shocking law has galvanized the rest of the nation to get federal legislation approved to prevent future missteps by individual states. On Saturday, more than 500 people marched in Reno in protest of the Arizona law and to demand federal action.

On the other hand, there have been signs that the center-point of the immigration reform debate has moved to to the political right. As this New York Times article explains, Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) outline of an immigration reform bill comes out swinging on the enforcement front. Republicans call for increased fortification of the nation’s borders but oppose national ID cards and some other measures that would put economic pressure on the flow of unauthorized workers into the country. We and other observers maintain that the United States cannot build a wall high enough to stop illegal immigration as long as the economic forces that attract workers here are not changed.

Schumer’s proposal, like Luis Gutierrez’s CIR ASAP bill in the House of Representatives, provides a path toward residency for the nation’s twelve million illegal aliens. Unauthorized immigrants would have to pay a fine, pay taxes they should have paid in previous years, and spend between six and eight years on a conditional visa that would require them to stay out of legal trouble. Learning some English is another likely requirement.

Our readers may be wondering: This talk of politics is interesting, but what does it mean for me? What can my loved ones and I do to prepare for immigration reform?

For starters, you should continue following our blogs on this site. We will continue to provide you with updates about how efforts to bring about CIR are progressing and we will tell you how you can get involved in the fight for change. Also, we invite our readers and their friends and loved ones to contact us in Reno or Las Vegas for a free consultation. We can tell you what options you have now for attaining lawful residence, and we can advise you on what you can do to get ready for immigration reforms when they do come at long last.

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