Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
January 23, 2024
Immigration advocates are slamming Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee’s recent vote for a resolution which denounces the Biden administration for creating “the illegal alien crisis at the southwest border” by “halting border wall construction” and “mass releasing millions of illegal aliens into the country.”
The resolution, introduced by Republican Rep. Nathaniel Moran of Texas, passed the House last week with a 225-187 margin. Lee was one of only 14 Democrats to join Republicans in the vote.
The resolution, H.Res. 957, denounces the Biden administration for rolling back numerous hard-right immigration policies created under the Trump administration, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases were processed, and the construction of the border wall.
Under the resolution, Republicans characterized the Biden administration’s immigration strategy as “open-border policies” and a “national security and public safety crisis.”
House Republicans have been struggling to find common ground with Democrats and with their GOP Senate colleagues as Congress tries to reach an agreement on a border policy that all sides want reformed. Republicans are also counting on immigration being a potent issue for them in this year’s elections, with likely Republican presidential nominee and former president Donald Trump taking the lead.
During his victory speech following the Iowa caucuses last week, Trump vowed to push for harsher immigration policies, including mass deportations, and an expansion of the border wall.
“We’re going to seal up the border,” Trump said to a cheering crowd, characterizing people claiming asylum at the Southern border as an “invasion.”
Immigration advocates in Nevada slammed Lee’s vote for the resolution, citing her role as a federal representative for a state with one of the highest shares of foreign-born residents.
Laura Martin, the executive director of PLAN Action, said “embracing the racist, xenophobic policies of Trump is not a logical step forward in any sense of the word for anyone who claims to be a champion of immigrant communities.”
“These are our neighbors, classmates, and friends who pay taxes, follow the law, and are important contributors to the fabric of our communities. But when politicians like Susie Lee govern through fear, they leave these communities in the margins. Citizenship is a logical step forward. Registry is a logical step forward,” Martin said.
Leo Murrieta, the director of Make the Road Nevada Action, called Lee’s approval of anti-immigration rhetoric in H.Res. 957, “a significant misstep” and “deeply disappointing.”
“We expect Nevada Democrats to stand by immigrants, but this vote aligns Congresswoman Lee with GOP extremists,” Murrieta said.
In a brief statement to the Current, Lee defended her vote on the resolution, and highlighted her sponsorship of the bipartisan Dignity Act, a bill that would fund physical barriers, detection technology, and personnel along the border, while reforming the U.S. asylum system.
“Did this resolution contain language that I do not support? Absolutely, but the reality is that our immigration system is broken and ignoring the problems at our border will not make them go away. I remain committed to finding a bipartisan solution that protects our border and creates a path to citizenship,” Lee said.
During a House floor debate on the resolution, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Fischbach argued that “the president has failed to maintain operation control of this nation’s borders.”
Democrats struck a different tune, calling the resolution a GOP campaign tool.
“It’s an effort to keep campaigning on the fear of immigrants rather than any serious attempt to address the complex issues created by global migration forces and decades of congressional inaction,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon on the House floor.
The vote also came amid Republican-led impeachment proceedings of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which Democrats have dismissed as another Republican attempt at distraction. Nevada Democratic Rep. Dina Titus called the GOP’s Mayorkas impeachment effort “nothing more than a political stunt to distract from one of the least productive Congresses in American history.”
Perpetually competitive CD3
Lee’s penchant for crossing the ideological aisle in the name of bipartisanship has also left her on the opposing side of Nevada’s Democratic House members on other issues. Last year, Lee was the only Democrat in the Nevada House delegation to vote to censure progressive stalwart Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota for her criticism of Israel.
Lee is seeking her fourth term in Nevada’s 3rd congressional district, considered a battleground district by both parties ever since it was established following the 2000 census.
In 2016, Lee’s district swung in favor of Trump for president, spurning former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. During the 2020 presidential election, the district swung back in Democrats favor, handing President Joe Biden a narrow victory.
Only time will tell which direction Nevada’s 3rd congressional district goes in the upcoming presidential election, but Democrats have some reasons to be optimistic.
After the 2020 U.S. Census, lawmakers in Nevada redrew the state’s political boundaries, shifting Democratic voters away from Nevada’s 1st congressional district — a historically ironclad safe seat for Democrats — to the state’s two swing districts, boosting Lee’s chances for reelection.
Still, during the last midterm election Lee defeated her Republican opponent April Becker by a narrow 2% margin.
As an incumbent, Lee is currently running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In the Republican primary, four opponents are vying for a chance to unseat Lee: business owner Elizabeth Halgelien, marketing consultant Drew Johnson, twice-defeated House candidate Steve Shiffman, and Steve London, who does not have a campaign site.
Anti-immigrant rhetoric in the House resolution is an indication of what migrant communities can expect this election year, said Murrieta, adding that it “highlights the failure of representatives from both sides of the aisle to address the real issues within our immigration system and their promotion of divisive policies.”
Murrieta called on Congress to avoid using “immigrants as political pawns” and instead prioritize immigration reform, a pathway to citizenship, and support for asylum seekers.
“For over a decade, Latine voters have played a decisive role in determining who represents CD3,” Murrieta said. “Immigrants are vital to Nevada’s economy and future, and it’s crucial that our representatives remember the immigrant families who have supported them over the years when casting votes in Congress.”
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