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Cortez Masto criticizes Trump administration over affordable housing and immigration

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto speaks with media Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at her office in the Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse and Federal Building in Reno, Nev. Photo by David Calvert for The Nevada Independent

RENO — Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto on Tuesday slammed the Trump administration and Republican leadership for inaction on immigration reform and affordable housing and called for bipartisan work in Washington during the next session.  

In a roundtable discussion with reporters in Reno, Cortez Masto highlighted parts of the recently passed omnibus spending bill and discussed issues facing Nevadans not included in the legislation.

The Democratic senator opened the discussion with affordable housing, an issue facing Nevada residents in both the north and south and rural communities. Cortez Masto attacked Secretary Ben Carson’s leadership of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), criticizing the fact that he has no long term plan to address affordable housing.

“There is nothing in writing, there is no long term plan and I still have not seen it,” Cortez Masto said.

Carson, a former neurosurgeon and 2016 Republican presidential contender, was confirmed as Secretary of HUD last March. Cortez Masto was one of the votes against confirming him.

Affordable housing is a growing problem for Nevada families, more than 10,000 of whom were wait-listed last year for federally subsidized housing, according to a report by the Nevada Housing Division.

Earlier this month, Nevada was ranked among the nation’s worst states for low income renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The coalition reported the state only had 15 affordable and available rental homes per 100 renter households at or below the low income threshold. That number drops to 10 available and affordable homes in Las Vegas.

Cortez Masto said one of the problems is a lack of inventory and incentive to build in the state. She emphasized the importance of working with both local organizations and federal housing agencies to come up with a solution.

“We should be collaborating on the state, local and federal level on what is it that we need to incentivize housing, to pencil out that construction and also address the increase in rent prices,” Cortez Masto said.

The senator said she was disappointed that a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients was not included in the omnibus, but said she would continue to fight for one.

“We know this crisis for DREAMers was created by the president when he terminated the DACA program,” Cortez Masto said.

Cortez Masto expressed disappointment in the deportation of Reno resident, David Chavez-Macias, a U.S. resident for over 30 years who was forced to leave the country earlier this month. Cortez Masto said Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not “recognize, not only the fact that he is not a criminal and an integral part of his community and worked hard, but that he has health issues and health problems.”

Cortez Masto said she and her staff worked with Chavez-Macias’ attorneys and the Director of Homeland Security to try to keep him in Reno; however their efforts fell short.

“This is what we see, it is a concerted effort by this administration to go against and prey on a community of people in fear,” Cortez Masto said.

She criticized both the administration and the Republican leadership, saying, “They haven’t done anything, instead many of us have been fighting, not only to put these DREAMers and kids on a pathway to citizenship, but we’ve been working on a bipartisan way to do it.”

Cortez Masto said the bipartisan immigration bill introduced by Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Angus King of Maine last month, put DREAMers on a pathway to citizenship and included border security.

“Not everyone agreed on everything in the bill, but it was a compromise, that’s how Congress should work, but again we were blocked by the leadership and the administration and that bill fell short,” Cortez Masto said.

Despite the setback, Cortez Masto said she will continue to fight for DREAMers and for a way to fix the “broken immigration system.”

“At the end of the day this is something that needs to be done and it is not okay that these kids and these families live in fear, it is not okay that we deport individuals who are not violent criminals in our communities and who have lived here for years,” Cortez Masto said.

Cortez Masto also touched on some positive impacts the omnibus will have on Nevadans, like funding for broadband to connect rural communities in the state and federal funding for research on gun violence.

Cortez Masto wrapped up the roundtable by briefly reflecting on her time so far in Washington, expressing frustration with the congressional gridlock.

“I will tell you I went to Congress to work in a bipartisan way and I don’t think there is enough of it being done,” Cortez Masto said. “There is too much partisan gridlock at the top, there is too much blocking good bipartisan work from being done.”

This story was updated at 9:25 a.m. on March 28, 2018 to reflect that Cortez Masto voted against confirming Carson as HUD secretary.

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