Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Here are the responses from each candidate for congressional district three and four to a series of questions posed by the Sun on immigration and citizenship issues. Responses are posted in their entirety with minor edits for clarity and to eliminate repetition. Republican candidates Rep. Joe Heck, district three, and Danny Tarkanian, district four, offered short synopses of their immigration positions, but declined to answer each specific question. Democratic candidates state Assemblyman John Oceguera, district three, and state Sen. Steven Horsford, district four, answered each of the queries individually.
Congressional District 4
I believe that illegal immigration places both an economic and security burden on our country. In order to deal with the immigration issue, we need to start by enforcing the laws that are currently in place, while working to streamline the legal immigration process. Additionally, the issue of illegal immigration needs to be dealt with via preventative measures rather than reactive policies. To ensure these measures are possible, I am in favor of all preventative methods for strengthening our borders. This is a necessary and vital step for stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into our country.
One of the major debates is what qualifies an individual for citizenship once they are here, specifically related to individuals who serve in the U.S. armed forces. I believe that anyone who is willing to put on the uniform in service of our country deserves a path to citizenship. However, I do not support the idea that simply attending school here entitles individuals to that same option. Furthermore, I do not support illegal immigrants having access to taxpayer benefits. Our taxpayers are already burdened enough with having to fund those services for citizens of this country. They do not need to additionally support those who are here illegally.
On comprehensive immigration reform: We need fair and practical comprehensive immigration reform. Democrats and Republicans both agree that our current immigration system is broken. We have to come together with President Obama to create a comprehensive reform package that includes a fair pathway to citizenship, secures our borders, protects workers, and helps strengthen America’s economy. Unfortunately, my opponent opposes any comprehensive approach. Instead, Danny Tarkanian supports Arizona’s SB1070, is in favor of mass deportation, and has said comprehensive immigration reform is “nothing more than a bailout for those who break the rules.” We can’t have a dialogue filled with anti-immigrant rhetoric. We need real solutions. I have always believed in equality for all. I believe that immigration is a civil rights issue our generation must confront. My experience of growing up and working in the diverse community of Southern Nevada, has exposed me to the complexity of the challenges our current immigration system poses. Through my work in the State Legislature and in the community, I have come to understand the myriad of less publicized immigration issues we must confront together the challenges families face when trying to unify parents and children, the quest for security that those seeking asylum from political persecution and those on emergency temporary protected status face, and the impact on our economy when immigrant workers are exploited and pitted against American-born workers.
On the Dream Act: I support the Dream Act. We should not punish those who are here at no fault of their own and who want to work, pursue higher education, and make positive contributions to their community. I applauded and support the president’s deferred action decision, but it is just a temporary solution and I will work to pass the Dream Act so that young people who want the best educational opportunities possible can achieve their dreams.
On deferred action: I approve of President Obama’s deferred action policy, as it will provide stability and opportunity for so many young people. The policy also will strengthen our economy and protects workers by ensuring that thousands of hard-working young people are no longer working in the shadows. However, the deferred action policy is not a long-term fix. We need a permanent solution for making sure that young immigrants who want to make a contribution to our country by joining the military or pursuing higher education have a long-term and stable way to contribute to our economy and be part of our community. Our first goal should be taking the steps to create a permanent solution. We should be working to develop bipartisan legislation that comprehensively addresses immigration reform so that the deferred action policy becomes unnecessary. However, until we have a permanent solution, the policy should be extended so that we prevent the deportation of those who were brought to this country at a young age at no fault of their own.
On deportation strategy: I support an immigration system that secures our borders and makes sure that we are not a haven for criminal activity. Unfortunately, in our broken immigration system, we were seeing deportation orders extending to young people who had been brought here as children and had no criminal record. I have been supportive of the Obama Administration’s deferred action policy, as it has offered a temporary solution to preventing the deportation of young Americans who know no other country as their home, and are serving in our military or are attempting to realize their educational goals. I believe we need to make sure that our immigration enforcement system is not penalizing people with no criminal records and is not separating families. My opponent has previously backed “self-deportation” and has essentially supported making life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they have no option but to leave our country. That is neither a humane or effective policy, and I believe we should secure our borders and pass fair immigration reform, not focus on making the day to day lives of undocumented immigrants unbearable.
On policing employers: We should crack down on businesses that break labor laws primarily with payroll audits. Companies have a responsibility to check the eligibility of their employees, and requiring them to follow the law in hiring practices will cut down on potential labor abuses and unsafe working conditions.
On Secure Communities: Instead of a broad and unfocused approach to enforcing current immigration laws, we should focus on those undocumented immigrants who are not obeying the law in their communities. It is a more efficient use of resources and it does not punish those who are making contributions to their community.
On skilled-worker visas: Immigrant scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have helped make our economy what it is today, and we should continue to offer incentives for skilled immigrant workers to come to the United States. I believe there are too few visas available: if we set low quotas or create restrictions on visas for skilled immigrant workers, we are denying our country the opportunity for economic growth and innovation.
On the remaining provision of Arizona’s SB 1070, the so-called “show me your papers” law: Discrimination and racial profiling are the natural conclusion of the parts of the law that have been left standing. That is unacceptable and not indicative of America’s character. My opponent said that the “papers please” portion of the Arizona law was necessary for law enforcement to do their job, and that Arizona has a right to enact laws that encourage racial profiling. I could not disagree more.
On English as the official language: Making English the official language of the United States is an overbroad policy that would affect millions of Americans who are in our country legally. It would place barriers between American citizens and their government, and seriously complicate their ability to access vital government services.
On non-English ballots: Eliminating existing bilingual ballots would disenfranchise millions of voters. Presidents from both parties, Democrat and Republican, have been strong advocates for voting rights for non-native English speakers by filing ballot access cases on their behalf.
On birthright citizenship: That radical policy shift would require an amendment to the Constitution, and I do not support it. Repealing birthright citizenship provisions would further complicate life for those who are here at no fault of their own, and it ignores the rich immigrant heritage of our nation.
Congressional District 3
Rep. Joe Heck:
On comprehensive immigration reform: There is a major need to overhaul our immigration system in this country. When people who wish to immigrate to our country have to wait for years to receive a visa and then, after receiving citizenship or permanent legal resident status, have to wait up to 10 years or more to bring their family to America, clearly we have a problem. I believe that there are four things we must do to improve America’s immigration system. First, we must secure our borders. Closing down the borders, north-south ports of entry, to illegal immigration will pave the way for further immigration system improvements. Second, we must eliminate incentives for individuals to come here illegally. The most obvious incentive is the chance to find employment. Instituting a comprehensive, reliable, mandatory e-verify system would be the best way to do that. This will not only ensure that American companies are employing legal residents, but also provide protection against worker exploitation. Next, we need to establish a modern, sustainable guest worker program. Finally, we must improve the procedures that allow individuals to become legal citizens of the United States. It should not take years for someone to go through the process if they have done everything right in trying to become a citizen. These common sense measures will return America to its roots of being a nation that thrives when immigrants come here legally.
On the Dream Act: The idea that young children who were brought to America illegally should be given access to opportunities in this country is a noble one. However, I believe that there are problems with the Dream Act as it is currently written that prohibit it from positively affecting its intended demographic. First, in its current form, the Dream Act would extend benefits to individuals who are up to 35 years old. If the bill is designed to help young students, then young students should be the focus of the bill. It also only requires two years of college or military service for individuals to benefit. However, it does not state that the individuals must obtain a degree or certificate or receive an honorable discharge from the military after a full enlistment, which lasts three to four years. If we are going to be giving individuals the benefits of legal residency, the goal must be that we ensure they are fully prepared for the competitive global job market or civilian life after college or military service. In its current form, I believe that the Dream Act falls short of that goal.
On immigration reform: We need an immigration policy that reflects we are a both a nation of laws and nation of immigrants. For me, this hits home, because my grandfather emigrated from Mexico. We need to find a comprehensive solution to this challenge. That includes practical steps like securing our border, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and being open to background checks to maintain our nation’s security. I also support the Dream Act because it is consistent with a policy reflecting we’re a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I have always been a supporter of tough, fair and practical solutions to immigration reform. In the Legislature I worked to crack down and punish employers for hiring undocumented workers. I will go to Congress with an open mind and work with anyone who has an idea to move forward and solve problems, but I won’t demagogue this issue. This is a challenge we must come together to solve.
On the Dream Act: I support the Dream Act because it is consistent with a policy reflecting we’re a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. If someone wants to serve in our military or go to school and become part of our educated workforce, we should help find a way for them to stay here legally.
On deferred action: The deferred action program is a clear step towards finding a tough, fair and practical solution for young immigrant children to get an education, serve in our military, and go on to be a vibrant part of America. Moving forward, we need to implement common-sense solutions. In Congress, I will support the Dream Act and continue to work with an open mind on helping immigrant children who want to serve in our military or join our educated workforce find a way to stay here legally. The Obama administration has increased yearly deportation rates and nearly half of all deportees in 2011 have been convicted of a crime.
On deportation enforcement: I think we need a tough, fair and practical approach to this issue. I think the Obama administration has taken us in the right direction, and in Congress I will work on a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that includes background checks to ensure our national security.
On policing employers: Part of the comprehensive solution to this challenge is cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers. I will go to Congress with an open mind and work together to find the best strategies to enforce our laws.
On secure communities: I agree with the stated goal of the Secure Communities initiative, and have said that part of our comprehensive approach to immigration reform is conducting background checks to protect our security. I have concerns over the implementation of this initiative, and would want to work on this issue in a bipartisan fashion in Congress to find practical solutions moving forward.
On skilled-worker visas: We need to capitalize on the students graduating from our education system here in America. I will work to keep those bright students in this country, so they can be a part of our educated workforce, create jobs, and make us more globally competitive.
On the remaining provision of Arizona’s SB 1070, the so-called “show me your papers” law: I do not support the remaining provision from the Arizona law. We must have an immigration system in America that protects our national security while recognizing the enormous contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to our nation.
On English as the official language: I do not believe we should make English the official language of this country, but should encourage all our citizens to learn English.
On non-English ballots: After recently celebrating the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, I still think we must continue to expand voting opportunities and end voter suppression efforts in this country. By printing ballots in other languages, we are allowing more citizens to participate in our democracy and make their voices heard.
On birthright citizenship: I strongly support birthright citizenship, a right guaranteed in the 14th Amendment. My opponent, on the other hand, has embraced the immigration agenda of the Tea Party — even going so far as to suggest amending the U.S. Constitution to change birthright citizenship.