Immigrants and refugees to lobby Nevada lawmakers

by Brian Bahouth

Immigrants rally in Las Vegas - image - Erika Castro

Carson City – Nevada continues to be one of the fastest growing states in the nation, and the number of people who live in Nevada and were born in a foreign country has increased by more than 200 percent since 1990. Today, according to the Migration Policy Institute, nearly 20 percent of Nevadans were born outside the United States. These immigrants make a significant economic contribution to the state in that nearly 40 percent of all workers in the hotel and food services industry are immigrants, and more, 17 percent of the state’s population are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent, and though immigrants and refugees are workers, business owners, and taxpayers, many live in the shadows of our society, so on Monday April 15, immigrants and refugees from northern and southern Nevada will unite in Carson City to lobby lawmakers on issues important to their communities.

Erika Castro, organizing manager for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), told Brian Bahouth during a phone conversation why she organized Immigrant and Refugee Lobby Day. Listen to the interview …

“We’re going up there to make sure that we are uplifting their voices. We’re Nevadans just like anybody else, and we want to make sure that the policies that we’re seeing this session are inclusive to immigrants and refugees and also making sure we provide protections and resources for these communities under this current administration,” Castro said. “We’re constantly seeing attacks. I think it’s a responsibility for our legislators to make sure that we are a state that welcomes and respects immigrants and refugees, so we’ll be going up there to advocate for some of those policies.”

Undocumented immigrants and refugees live in the shadows.

“As immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, we’re constantly just in the shadows because of that fear of deportation. That fear of being found out in a sense, so I think this is an opportunity for us to say, we live in a state where one in five children live with an undocumented parent.”

Under President Trump, fear among immigrants has multiplied, and Castro knows the fear of being undocumented first hand.

“I am a DACA recipient but I grew up undocumented for many many years, and what’s happening now, it’s why I do the work with PLAN and with the Nevada Immigrant Coalition,” Castro said. “We have power, and we are able to make a difference here at a local level to push back on that xenophobia and say that we are a state  that thrives off of tourism and people from around the world are coming to our state, are coming to Las Vegas, and we are a welcoming state. We are not going to just follow the xenophobia narrative that we are currently seeing, but what we’re going to actually do is make sure that immigrants and refugees that come to our state and that have been living in our state for many many decades have the opportunity to contribute as full citizens, as full Nevadans.”

Castro says there are not enough resources available for refugees in Nevada, and that’s part of the reason she and others will be in Carson City on Monday.

“We need to, as a state, figure out how we are supporting these communities because they are part of our communities. They’re contributing to our culture. They’re contributing to our economy, and all they are trying to do is find a home where they can prosper.”

During his 2019 state of the state address, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said he would create the Office for New Americans if funding is available, and Castro said she and others will encourage lawmakers to fund the new office.

“It (the proposed Nevada Office for New Americans) would ensure that immigrants and refugees and those that are going through the naturalization process after coming to America have the resources and have the guidance through our different systems locally so that they can be prosperous and access high quality education or professional and occupational licenses, how to start a business, how to apply  for different forms of naturalization or to adjust their status.

“So it’s really about taking matters into our own hands as a state, and making sure that our state truly represents all of our communities, not just the few, the wealthy, and the ones that you normally hear about.”

Several bills active in the 2019 Nevada Legislature are a focus for immigrant and refugee lobbyists. Immigrants and refugees will rally in front of the Nevada Legislature on Monday April 15 between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.

Universal Access to Occupational Licenses
AB275
Assemblywoman Torres

Nevada Promise Scholarship
SB350
Senator Denis

Silver State Opportunity Grant Program
AB155
Assemblywoman Torres

Silver State Opportunity Grant Program
SB146

Gang Database
AB307 Assemblyman Flores

Practices of local law enforcement and immigration enforcement
AB281
Assemblyman Flores

Guidelines for U Visa Certifications
AB336
Assemblyman Flores

Driver Authorization Cards
AB193
Assemblyman Flores

Detention Transparency
AB376
Assemblyman Flores

Traffic Decriminalization
AB411

ZOOM Funding
SB 467

Office for New Americans

BDR-1222