Ever since President Donald Trump took office, Senator Dean Heller (R) has generally been less open and forthcoming with most of his Nevada constituents. But every so often, he’s released some explosive nuggets of truth. Heller dropped another nugget of truth yesterday, one that provides another disturbing local angle to Trump’s immigration agenda.
But what is Heller actually doing about it? If you guessed nothing, then you’re truly in the know.
Out of sight, out of mind
There’s a reason why Trump and his allies have so much trouble with the truth: Their rhetoric of “aliens”, “crime”, and “invasion” works best when we in the media focus on their narrative of “economic anxiety” rather than the reality of the White House using the force of the federal government against families who are just trying to survive. It’s much easier to sell militarized xenophobia as a “populist revolt” than poke into the truth of families being separated, children being abused, and communities being shattered.
That’s why the recent family separation scandal was so rough for the White House: It exposed their “zero tolerance policy” for what it actually is, not just how Trump spins it to score political points. And this is probably why the White House and Republican operatives are trying to shift the conversation back to the “controversy” of the Abolish ICE movement rather than discuss the policies and practices that have fueled this latest immigration conflagration. It’s easier for them to defend their actions by focusing on “anxiety”, “jobs”, and “lawlessness” than assessing the actual reality on the ground.
So it happened here… Right, Senator Heller?
Last month, I and several others couldn’t find any answers to the question of whether any immigrants who were apprehended at the border and separated from their families were subsequently detained here in Nevada. Yet during a speech on the U.S. Senate floor yesterday, Heller may have inadvertently provided an answer. As he was speaking, Heller let slip, “My constituents have spoken to families split apart at the borders and some are being held in Southern Nevada.” The Nevada Independent later figured out that one of those people held here was a father who was separated from his child at the border, held at the Henderson Detention Center (which has long been used by federal authorities to detain immigrants), then returned to Texas to be reunited with his daughter.
It’s still unclear who else was moved here to Nevada to be detained, and Heller’s office has since declined to provide any further details on immigrants being detained in Nevada facilities. And of course, federal agencies haven’t shed any more light on how many people they’ve sent here to be incarcerated after separating them from their families.
All talk + no action = worthless hot air
Why is this coming out now? Apparently, Heller wanted to highlight his efforts to reunite immigrant families who were detained and separated at the border.
What exactly is Heller doing? That’s yet to be determined. He’s not cosponsoring the REUNITE Act that fellow Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) has introduced with Senators Kamala Harris (D-California) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), and he hasn’t announced any other legislation that he’s introducing, sponsoring, or supporting in any other capacity.
So again, what exactly is Heller doing about this? Today is the court-ordered deadline for the federal government to reunify families they detained, yet the government probably won’t fully meet the deadline. On top of that, the Trump administration is still rushing to deport these families instead of allowing for legal due process. Though his floor speech shed a little more light this week on how the Trump administration’s deportation regime has hit home, Heller still isn’t doing anything about it… And that’s the real, big takeaway here.