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Indy DC Download: House passed bill to legalize DREAMers, TPS recipients as well as a disaster aid package

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez
Photo of the U.S Capitol

The House last week passed Democratic-drafted legislation to provide a path to citizenship for those brought to the country illegally as children as well as those in the U.S. under certain refugee programs that President Donald Trump has pushed to end.

The House also sent a $19 billion disaster relief package to Trump after Republicans three times blocked House Democratic leaders’ efforts to pass the measure by voice vote during the Memorial Day recess. Trump signed the bill Thursday, despite the fact that it did not include funds he sought for the southern border and did include funds for Puerto Rico, which he had opposed.

The package included $15.5 million for the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation for fire remediation activities and for firefighting costs. Wildfires burned more than two million acres in Nevada over the past two years.

The aid bill passed 354 to 58, with all members of the congressional delegation voting for the package.


Republican Rep. Mark Amodei parted company with his Nevada Democratic colleagues on the immigration bill, which would provide legal status for undocumented people participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) program. The bill passed 237 to 187, with only seven Republicans joining Democrats in favor of the measure.

Amodei supports legalizing the status of both communities and providing a path to citizenship, but said he opposed the Democratic measure because it would allow those who have not participated in the DACA and TPS programs to legalize their status and he argued that the bill does not have enough safeguards to prevent criminals and gang members from obtaining green cards.

“Why the hell do these deserving people have to carry those issues across on their back?” Amodei asked.

DACA protects immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children, also known as DREAMers, from deportation and allows them to work. Trump sought to end the program established by the Obama administration in 2012. TPS is designed to help refugees from countries destabilized by war or other disasters. Trump has announced plans to end the program for many immigrants. Trump’s effort to end DACA and TPS are being challenged in the courts.

Under the proposed measure, those living in the U.S. as of 2016 under TPS would be eligible to apply for green cards and, after five years, would be eligible to apply for citizenship. That also applies to Liberians, who currently have protection from deportation under the Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) program. That protection was set to expire at the end of March 2019, but was extended for 12 months.

In order to apply for legal status, DREAMers, regardless of participation in DACA, would first have to apply for conditional residency, which lasts 10 years. However, DREAMers could apply for green cards if they earn a college degree, complete at least two years of postsecondary education, serve in the military for two years or have been employed for at least three years. As permanent residents, they could then apply for citizenship after five years, like other green card holders.

Amodei said that he would have voted for a more narrowly tailored bill—even without funds to help secure the border, which many Republicans and Trump have sought on immigration legislation—for DACA and TPS recipients, which he called “low hanging fruit.”

“It should have been taken care of long ago,” Amodei said of DACA and TPS recipients.

But the Democrat’s bill, which he argued was designed to score political points, missed the mark for him.

“The leadership on both sides are so obsessed with their political positioning that they can’t just do the issue straight up, and I’m frustrated,” Amodei said.

Amodei challenged his own leadership last year as one of 23 Republicans to sign a “discharge petition” that would have forced votes on immigration reform bills even if Republican leaders didn’t want to bring the measures to the floor. Although the petition fell two Republicans short of triggering the votes, he credited it with pressuring GOP leaders to eventually bring two DACA bills up for votes that ultimately failed.

Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, who have long supported passing a bill for DREAMers and TPS recipients, celebrated House approval of the legislation and appeared at an event Friday in Las Vegas with immigration activists.  

“Over the last two years, the Trump Administration has attacked Dreamers and TPS holders by rolling back immigration protections and tearing families apart,” Titus in a speech on the House floor Tuesday. “That has got to stop. By passing the Dream and Promise Act, this House is going to be standing up to the hateful, anti-immigration policies that have come to define the Trump Administration.”


Both Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen praised House passage of the immigration bill.

“I urge the Senate majority to do what’s right and bring this bill to the floor,” Rosen wrote on Twitter.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who, with his GOP majority, controls the agenda in the upper chamber, is unlikely to bring up the measure.

“Probably not,” he said on Fox News Radio on Wednesday when asked whether there would be Senate action on the House measure.

He said that the Senate would need to do more to reform the immigration laws than just legalize DREAMers.

“I think there is a perfectly legitimate case for the DREAMers,” McConnell continued. “These are your listeners or the kids who were brought here by their parents who've been raised as Americans and deserve to be Americans at some point. But I think we need to do more than just that. And that's the context in which I would deal with that issue in the Senate.”

McConnell has also embraced the mantle of groundskeeper of “the legislative graveyard” for House legislation he considers divisive or too liberal for his caucus.

Cortez Masto last week unveiled a letter the senators sent last month to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asking questions about delays experienced in Nevada field offices and urging action to reduce the state’s immigration backlog.

“Current wait times have reached an unacceptable length,” the May 23 letter said. “The average processing time for green card applications (I-485 petitions) in the Las Vegas and Reno field offices is between 11 to 27 months, up to twice as long as the average national wait time. Additionally, the Reno and Las Vegas field offices can see processing times of 10 to 20 months for applications for naturalization (N-400), also up to double the national average wait time.”

Delays have a ripple effect on the state economy given that one in five residents is an immigrant, according to the senators.

“These delays affect the social and economic welfare of all of our residents,” the letter continued.

Separately, Cortez Masto led a group of nine Senate Democrats, including Rosen, who wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security chief Kevin McAleenan raising concerns about moving Transportation Security Administration agents to the southern border.

“We urge you to reconsider the decision to reassign TSA agents to work with Customs and Border Protection along the southern border,” the letter said.

The group also wants to know which TSA agents would be eligible to reassigned, are efforts being made to ensure TSA can handle the heavy-travel summer months and what training will CPB provide to TSA agents?


The Senate continued to process nominations, including confirming Andrew Saul to be commissioner of Social Security for the term expiring on January 19, 2025. Both Cortez Masto and Rosen voted in favor of the nomination, which cleared the Senate 77 to 16.

The two split their votes on Rossie Alston to be a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia. Cortez Masto opposed cutting off debate on the nomination while Rosen voted in favor of ending debate.

Alston had the support of both of Virginia’s Democratic senators and his nomination was advanced 74 to 19, with 23 Democrats voting to end debate.

Cortez Masto cited Alston’s work on behalf of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which has worked to prevent unions from requiring the collection of dues, as a cause of concern.

“Senator Cortez Masto had serious concerns about the nominee’s views on the rights of organized labor in America,” according to her office.

His nomination was opposed by the AFL-CIO.

Last week’s legislative session was shorter than usual. Lawmakers wrapped up business by Wednesday afternoon in order to attend events surrounding the 75-anniversary of the D-Day invasion in France. Rosen was one of the legislators who attended the festivities.

Meanwhile, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came out in favor of starting a Trump impeachment inquiry.

“It’s not the right thing to do nothing,” Reid said in an interview Monday with USA Today. “It’s not the right thing to jump into impeachment without doing an inquiry.”

His comments came after telling the New York Times last month that he agreed with Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Democrats should hold off over concerns that it would spark a political backlash that would help Trump in 2020 should they move forward with impeachment, similar to what happened with President Bill Clinton.

“I mean, Clinton was impeached — it helped him,” Reid said in May. “And, you know, I’ve been saying that for several months.”

None of the Nevada congressional delegation is among the 59 House members who have called for impeachment. According to a running list kept by the Times, they have Titus, a Pelosi ally, and Lee among the 66 who want to hold off for now, or are undecided. They have Horsford and Amodei under their “waiting for a response” column.

But Horsford released a statement after Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave a press conference late last month when Mueller underscored that his report did not exonerate the president and that it was up to Congress to decide whether or not to take the lead on the case.

“Today’s statement by Special Counsel Mueller offers further confirmation of the urgent need for Congress to fulfill its oversight responsibility,” Horsford said at the time. “I’ve read the report and it is clear that obstruction of justice occurred by this White House, and despite the DOJ’s policy preventing an indictment of a sitting president, it is now Congress’ duty to take the necessary actions because no one is above the law.”

Horsford stressed that the issue should rise above politics.

“This is about the interference of a foreign actor in our national elections and the alleged obstruction of a federal investigation,” he continued. “Every member of Congress must now decide how they will fulfill their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution and restore integrity to our democratic institutions.”

For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.

Legislation co-sponsored:
S. 1750 – A bill to establish the Clean School Bus Grant Program, and for other purposes.
S. 1745 – A bill to establish a cost of greenhouse gases for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide to be used by Federal agencies, and for other purposes.
S. 1743 – A bill to direct the President to develop a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement, and for other purposes.
Legislation co-sponsored:
S. 1743 – A bill to direct the President to develop a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement, and for other purposes.
S. 1735 – A bill to provide women with increased access to preventive and life-saving cancer screening.
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 3138 – To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the members of the Women's Army Corps who were assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, known as the "Six Triple Eight".
H.R. 3106 – To require a joint domestic terrorism report, establish within the Department of Homeland Security a National Center for the Study of Domestic Terrorism, authorize research within the Department of Homeland Security on current trends in domestic terrorism, and for other purposes.
Legislation sponsored:
H.R. 2531 – National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 2509 – Ski Area Fee Retention Act
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 3150 – To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for interest-free deferment on student loans for borrowers serving in certain medical or dental internships or residency programs.
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 3151 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modernize and improve the Internal Revenue Service, and for other purposes.


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