Wednesday, June 4, 2014 | 10:18 a.m.
Five protesters pushing for immigration reform legislation were cited on counts of trespassing at Joe Heck’s local office this morning after they demanded to be heard and refused to leave.
A group of more than 30 protesters stood in a hallway outside Heck’s office at Eastern Avenue and Pebble Road, chanting and reading letters from immigrants who live in the congressman’s district.
Heck’s staff would not grant the protesters access, saying the office could not accommodate the crowd and that the congressman was not in the building.
Crowding into a narrow hallway, the protesters, many from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the Unite Here, read several letters to Heck staff assistant Ken Minster, before handing over the remainder of the 150 letters when police arrived.
The crowd was asked to disperse, but PLAN Communication Director Laura Martin said the group had more to say and wanted to keep reading the letters. Metro Police then escorted Martin and four others out of the building and gave them misdemeanor trespassing citations.
The protest is part of a campaign marking the anniversary of the Senate’s passage last year of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that addressed a wide range of issues, from high-skilled worker visas to agricultural labor and legalization for immigrants in the country without residency.
There were protests today in at least 13 states across the country, with rallies at the offices of 21 House members.
A.J. Buhay, 30, a former member of the U.S. Air Force who was born in the Philippines and now lives in Heck’s district, said it took him several years to reunite his family in the United States and that the process was arduous.
“It’s been a year since the Senate passed its bill, and the House hasn’t done anything,” said Buhay, one of those who received a trespassing citation. “We want to see action, not just words, from Heck. He could publicly call on (House Speaker John) Boehner to have a vote.”
Buhay read several of the letters from immigrants as the protesters and two of Heck’s staff members listened. Many people, including Buhay, choked up as he shared the stories from immigrants, some of whom had been in the country since they were just days old.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats have said the House should pass immigration legislation by Aug. 1, after which President Barack Obama would be justified in taking executive action.
Heck has criticized Obama’s previous executive actions, including temporary work permits for young immigrants under the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, for circumventing Congress to score “political points.”
Heck voted with other GOP House members last year to defund the deferred action program.
Heck has said in public appearances and newspaper columns that he supports immigration reform but disagrees with some parts of the Senate bill.
He has also advocated for a “step-by-step” approach to reform, rather than one large bill. Heck has called the Senate’s proposal to legalize immigrants without residency and provide a path to citizenship after more than a decade “reasonable.”
In October, as the GOP indicated there would be no vote on immigration reform in 2013, Heck said he it was “extremely frustrating and very disappointing.”
“This is yet another example of the leadership vacuum in Washington that rightly has so many people frustrated with this dysfunctional Congress,” he said.
The protesters said they have heard enough and want action.
For example, Heck could co-sponsor a bill House Democrats introduced last year that closely mirrors the Senate reform bill, said Culinary Union Political Director Yvanna Cancela, one of the protesters who received a trespassing citation.
After getting her citation and being released, Martin, wearing a red “Stop Separating Families” T-shirt, said House Republicans are more concerned about winning their primary elections than governing and passing reform.
“All they can show us is their nice words,” she said. “But they can’t show us anything they are doing.”