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Nevadans Keeping Close Watch On This Week's Immigration Reform Battle

May 15, 2007

With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduling a debate, this could be a key week in the battle over immigration reform. A major new immigration bill could be introduced in the Senate as early as today. Rev. Bob Stoeckig of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas says families should be at the center of the bill because even Nevada immigrants who are here legally run into problems keeping family members together.

“I'll be looking for something that gives priority to family reunification within the immigration process.”

Rev. Stoeckig will join legal experts at a Progressive Leadership Alliance symposium to discuss the latest proposed immigration changes today at UNLV's Boyd School of Law.

Rolando Velazquez has seen immigration enforcement from both sides, first working to deport undocumented workers, and now defending them. He says if the new bill requires undocumented workers to return home before becoming citizens, it will be unworkable for both workers and the federal government.

“I just don't think that they have enough enforcement officers, or the budget, or the stomach, to sit there and try to locate and find 12 million undocumented people and then remove them.”

The requirement to return home before gaining citizenship is supported by those who require a tougher path to citizenship, saying there should be some penalty for entering the country without documents.

While much of the debate has been behind closed doors, Rev. Stoeckig is concerned that the Bush administration now seems to be putting an emphasis on work documentation instead of families.

“We don’t want something that's just work based, but something that does give a priority to immediate family members being reunited with people who are citizens, or legal residents working here.”

The symposium is from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in Room 102 of the UNLV Boyd School of Law, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas.

Michael Clifford/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NV