Nevada’s Shifting Demographics Encourage GOP Support for Immigration Reform
July 10, 2015
Nevada is a good example of a state in which shifting demographics have a notable impact on politics and policy.
Nearly one-fifth of Nevada’s population was foreign-born as of 2013, up from 8.7 percent in 1990. More than 92 percent of the foreign-born population is in the labor force. As of 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, the state’s combined 35,577 Latino- and Asian-owned businesses employed nearly 46,000 people and brought in $7 billion in sales and receipts.
With the support of the broader business and faith communities, Nevada Republican leaders have responded by striking a favorable tone toward immigrants and supporting broad immigration reform.
“There are few states where the growing economic clout of immigrants is more apparent than in Nevada, and we believe federal legislation will expand opportunities for immigrant-owned firms and businesses seeking to hire talented foreign nationals.”
— Missy Young, Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice President of Colocation at Switch
GOP Leaders Back Reform
Gov. Brian Sandoval, a potential GOP vice presidential candidate, is a strong supporter of immigration reform, consistently urging Congress to act. “I’d also like to take a moment today to call upon Congress to comprehensively reform our immigration system … I’m a living witness that any one of your children can become anything they want to be,” Sandoval said in 2013.
Rep. Joe Heck (R), who may jump in the Senate race to succeed Sen. Harry Reid, backs comprehensive reform and is open to a path to citizenship. “I welcome the debate on immigration reform and the opportunity to find real solutions for our broken immigration system,” Heck says on his website. “ … I am open to considering proposals that address earned citizenship.” And at the August 2013 South by Southwest V2V Conference in Las Vegas, he said, “I wish that the discussion was always more comprehensive. Because then I think people would better understand that this truly is in our vital national and economic interests.”
And Rep. Mark Amodei (R) has urged House Republican leadership for a vote on immigration reform. “It’s incredibly frustrating to absorb, continue to absorb, the whacks on doing nothing on the issue,” Amodei said in January. “I’m just tired of defending nothing, I can’t defend nothing.”
The Republican state legislature also has taken action, passing a resolution in March that urges Congress to act. The legislature acknowledged that “the growth in our State’s population has also been driven by unauthorized immigrants who comprise a significant percentage of our population, including students and a workforce that remains in the shadows of a broken system.”
Nevada GOP Voters Support Reform
Before the November 2014 election, polls in Reps. Heck and Amodei’s conservative districts demonstrated strong backing for comprehensive reform.
In Heck’s district, 74 percent of Republicans said they support the opportunity for immigrants without authorization to earn citizenship. And in Amodei’s district, 70 percent of Republican voters agreed.
The Latino Population Supports Reform — and Latinos Vote
Latinos in Nevada make up 26.9 percent of the population and represent 15 percent of eligible voters — an important voting bloc. In the last presidential election, 67.7 percent of the eligible Latino population statewide voted.
On the eve of the 2014 election, 48 percent of Nevada Latinos ranked immigration reform as the issue most important to them.
The Nevada Business Community Supports Reform
In 2012, the purchasing power of Latinos in Nevada was $16.3 billion, which represents an increase of 1,126 percent since 1990.
The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Urban Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority all have backed reform:
“Our immigration system is broken,” Tom R. Skancke, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, said in a statement. “Like many others, we’ve read that this Congress won’t pass immigration reform legislation, and that’s frankly unacceptable. … Immigration reform is not just about our neighbors to the south. It is a global issue. Lack of action on immigration reform affects our ability to attract foreign direct investment and oftentimes educated talent our region currently does not have or does not produce.”
“Our endorsement today is fundamentally about furthering economic development in our region and making metro regions across the United States more globally competitive,” Missy Young, Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice President of Colocation at Switch said in the statement. “Additionally, there are few states where the growing economic clout of immigrants is more apparent than in Nevada, and we believe federal legislation will expand opportunities for immigrant-owned firms and businesses seeking to hire talented foreign nationals.”
The Nevada Faith Community Supports Reform
Pasqual Urrabazo, associate pastor of the International Church of Las Vegas, has lived in the city for 53 years. His family came from Mexico a few generations back, and he has seen a lot of changes in the area’s churches over the years. “There are a lot of people that are not from here that need help,” Urrabazo said. “We see people gathering at churches and asking ‘How do we become legal?’ We started doing prayer meetings and our church started to grow.”
As part of a conference call organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table, Urrabazo spoke to reporters about how deportations have affected families in his congregation, and the continuing efforts of the group to advocate for immigration reform as part of the Pray for Reform campaign. “If one part of the body suffers, everybody suffers,” he said. Urrabazo added churches and religious groups do what they can to help. “We have an organization in Las Vegas that helps the kids get back with their parents — sometimes the kids end up with relatives here in Las Vegas.”
Nevada Faith, Business Media Availability:
Kathia Pereira, President, Pereira Immigration Law Group
Pasqual Urrabazo, Pastor, International Church of Las Vegas
Please contact Cathleen Farrell to arrange interviews.