Nevada Newsmakers

News - September 26, 2023 - by Ray Hagar

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U.S. immigration policy, a contentious political issue for decades in Congress, could be fixed within a year if some members of Congress would quit playing politics with the issue, Nevada's senior Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Tuesday on Nevada Newsmakers.

"I think we can fix that system, that broken immigration system, and still secure our borders at the same time," Cortez Masto told host Sam Shad.

"Some of my colleagues, instead of solving the problem and addressing this issue, are more inclined to play politics with it and scare people so that they can win an election," Cortez Masto said in an interview that took place Sept. 18 in Washington D.C.

Immigration reform is vital for many Nevada businesses who rely on immigrant labor, especially in "less skilled category" areas of hospitality, construction and agriculture.

Those industries -- big parts of Nevada's economy -- had higher rates of unfilled jobs than skilled labor last year, according to UC Davis research.

Currently there are about 11 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., according to the Committee for Economic Development, the public policy center of The Conference Board.

"I was just in Nevada in August," Cortez Masto said. "I do my rural road trip, get around the state and talk in rural Nevada to our farmers and ranchers. They are looking for workers and they're looking for workers that are coming from Mexico and other places, immigrants, because they unfortunately know that there are Americans who are not taking these jobs."

Cortez Masto mentioned her family roots in discussing the need for immigration reform.

"My grandfather came here from Chihuahua, Mexico, to work and became United States citizen," said Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. "That's what this country is really built on. So to continue to open that door and have an orderly, secure process for that to happen, I'm all for it. "

It's apparent Cortez Masto has grown frustrated about the lack of movement in Congress.

"I hope we could do it (immigration reform), quite honestly, now with some of my colleagues who claim that they want to do something about this immigration issue," she said.

She is especially frustrated with the lack of movement on the DACA issue -- which in 2012 granted deportation protections and employment rights to  immigrants brought to the United States as children, either by crossing the border illegally or while overstaying visas.

Now, 11 years later, those "Dreamers," still protected by DACA, remain in legal limbo. They are concerned their immigration status could be changed with a change in presidential administrations, forcing them to face deportation.

It's outrageous," Cortez Masto said. "You and I both know we've got Dreamers in the state of Nevada. They came there as young children. They've grown up there. They want to go to school there. They want to be a crucial part of our (economy). They're on the front lines of the pandemic. They're essential workers. And yet we're telling them you don't matter.

"Well, they do matter. And it is important that we continue to focus on how we work together to pass (protections)," Cortez Masto said.

Fixing the immigration system to ease the workers' shortage in Nevada and securing our southern border with Mexico are not "mutually exclusive," Cortez Masto said.

"I've said it over and over again. I think we can fix a broken immigration system and secure our borders and put funding there," she said. "We've done both and we can do both. They're not mutually exclusive."

UKRAINE WAR: Cortez Masto remains a strong supporter of Ukraine in beating back the Russian invasion into their nation.

Since the war began, the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress have directed more than $75 billion in assistance to Ukraine, which includes humanitarian, financial, and military support, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research institute.

Now, Congress is considering sending $20 million more, according to CBS News.

"It is something that we have to stand up against," she said of the Russian aggression. "I do believe that the United States can not only support Ukraine, but we can also do what we need to do in this country on other issues. I think we can do both when it comes to addressing our domestic needs, but at the same time standing up for Ukraine."

She was also critical of the foreign policy of the Trump administration.

"I will also say this: I remember under the previous administration there was a lot of chaos. The previous administration was, particularly for our friends and allies in other countries, pushing them off, not building and continuing to build relationships."

She praised President Biden in organizing the flow of aid to Ukraine among the European nations and members of NATO, including the U.S.

"That's why we see other countries who have also come to the table and hadn't been there before," she said. "So I think it is important we continue to work with our allies and friends who are also supporting Ukraine and the people in Ukraine in this instance."

INFRASTRUCTURE FUND: More than $220 billion and 3,200 projects have been announced in Biden's "Investing in America"  infrastructure agenda, according to White House press releases.

Cortez Masto urged Nevada's state and local governments to apply for the funding or get left out.

"So now is the time to take advantage of that," she said. "Now's the time to apply for those funds. Now's the time to make sure that Nevada is getting its fair share.

"I fought for those so that Nevada could seek the benefits of those federal resources," she continued. "So it is important that the state and our local counties and our airport authorities and the Regional Transportation Commission and Nevada Department of Transportation, that they are applying for these funds that are out there. Because quite frankly, if we don't go after them and get them, then some other community is going to get them."

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