For the past 18 months, President Donald Trump has moved to weaponize much of the federal government against immigrant communities. Between Trump’s anti-immigrant actions and the scammers seeking to take advantage of this fearful climate, it can be a challenge for immigrants to figure out who’s truly trustworthy. Amidst this challenging environment, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) held her second annual immigration resource fair in East Las Vegas to reassure constituents that regardless of the White House’s bellicose rhetoric, help and hope are still nearby.
“It’s pausing my life. It’s not being able to figure out: Should I continue my education? Can I get a house? Should I get married? It’s all these big life decisions. I’m not the only one. Everyone is in this chaos and uncertainty.”
– Astrid Silva, DREAM Big Vegas
Thus far three federal courts have ruled against the Trump administration’s attempts to end DACA, and one of those courts has even ordered the full reinstatement of the deportation relief program for DREAMers (meaning the federal government must allow new applicants to join). And yet, immigrant rights activists are nervous. Now that a fourth DACA case is pending in the courtroom of the most anti-immigrant judge in the country, there’s a strong possibility of conflicting rulings that will force DREAMers into legal limbo as they await a Supreme Court ruling on whether DACA can continue in any form.
For DREAM Big Nevada founder Astrid Silva, the legal limbo is another impediment she has to face in her everyday life. “It’s pausing my life. It’s not being able to figure out: Should I continue my education? Can I get a house? Should I get married? It’s all these big life decisions. I’m not the only one. Everyone is in this chaos and uncertainty.”
Silva went on to explain, “I think it’s a lot more frustrating than before. In the past, I didn’t know what it was like to have a work permit. I didn’t know what it was like to have that security.” She continued, “Now I know what it feels like, and I wonder what it will be like if I can’t do these things any more.”
“We’ve brought this up so many times. The Republicans won’t do anything. They won’t bring the bill up, but we continue to fight.”
– Rep. Dina Titus
Astrid Silva isn’t the only one frustrated with the lack of resolution on DACA. Rep. Dina Titus expressed her frustration with Republican leaders’ intransigence on bipartisan immigration reform legislation, including the DREAM Act to ensure permanent protection for DACA recipients: “We’ve brought this up so many times. The Republicans won’t do anything. They won’t bring the bill up, but we continue to fight.”
When asked whether the DACA court cases have motivated more of her Republican colleagues to pass a legislative solution, Titus’ assessment was grim: “I think it’s just the opposite. The closer we get to the election, the less likely the Republicans are to move anything.”
Indeed, Trump and other top Republicans are increasingly hoping a hard-line, anti-immigrant message will help them save their Congressional majorities this fall. Though we’ve generally seen more Republicans go full Trump on immigration in states where Trump performed well in 2016, we’ve also seen Senator Dean Heller (R) ditch his prior moderation and embrace Trump here in Nevada. Trump may soon give Heller and other Republicans another talking point to use in their campaigns, one that hits not just Democrats in Congress, but also immigrant families at home.
“They want to put policies in place to hurt immigrants coming here seeking asylum. They’re attacking people at every front.”
– Rep. Dina Titus, on Trump’s executive actions
Back in May, we took a closer look at the “public charge” rule that the White House wants to change to penalize immigrants with legal status who utilize social safety net programs like SNAP, CHIP, and various tax credits. This week, we’ve learned that the Trump administration is moving ahead on a proposed far-reaching executive order to make it easier for the government to strip legal status from working-class immigrants who use social safety net programs, even if it’s for their children who are U.S. citizens. They’re apparently rushing to draft this executive order to not just advance their goal of ending the American immigration system as we know it, but also to boost Republicans in this midterm election.
Not only does Astrid Silva see this proposed “public charge” change as an attack on immigrant families’ ability to survive, but also another way to sow chaos and confusion: “It contributes to the chaos in the community. They don’t know who to trust.” Up until now, working-class immigrants with legal status have been encouraged to utilize programs to ensure their families’ well-being. But if this rules change comes into place, Silva fears this will further the distrust that’s become commonplace in the Trump era.
Titus was even more blunt in her assessment of Trump’s “public charge” proposal, as well as other executive actions targeting the most vulnerable people: “They want to put policies in place to hurt immigrants coming here seeking asylum. They don’t want people to use domestic violence or gang violence as reasons to gain asylum. They’re attacking people at every front.”
“There is a lot of fear. There is a lot of uncertainty. And yet, they’re here. […] It was good.”
– Astrid Silva
Despite these and other Trump administration attacks on immigrant communities, people showed up for the fair at the East Las Vegas Community Center, which featured staff from Titus’ congressional office, immigrant rights groups, and other community organizations (as well as an appearance by Gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak [D]). Astrid Silva saw last night’s healthy turnout as an encouraging sign: “There is a lot of fear. There is a lot of uncertainty. And yet, they’re here. […] It was good.”
Titus echoed that sentiment as she described the work her office is doing to help constituents navigate the immigration system. As Titus put it, “There’s always hope. We work very hard every day to keep families together. We help with DACA. We help with visas. We help in dealing with ICE.”
Still, she added her hope that Americans who can get out and vote do so to shift the balance of power away from Trump and towards justice for immigrant families: “Mostly, we want to say get out to vote because elections have consequences.”