In September, Fransis Garcia traveled all the way to the nation's capital from Las Vegas to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform through the budget reconciliation process. But before she could join a scheduled march, the U.S. Senate parliamentarian rejected the effort.
On the night of Sunday Sept. 19, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough determined the Democrats' proposal to provide legal status to roughly 8 million people fell outside the boundaries of what can be done through budget reconciliation, a process that allows a simple majority to pass a bill instead of having to meet the usual 60-vote threshold.
“That lowered our morale. We were hoping for a better resolution," Garcia, a housekeeper at MGM Resorts and holder of Temporary Protected Status, said in her native Spanish. “I've gone to various marches but I think that was the one we went into with the most hope."
According to an estimate prepared by the Center for American Progress the proposed provisions could have put nearly 113,000 people in Nevada— including those brought to the U.S. as children and TPS holders— on a track to permanent residency.
The Senate's Parliamentarian is a nonpartisan, unelected individual who interprets the rules of the chamber, and whose decision can be ignored by Senate leadership or overturned by a Senate vote.
Now immigrant rights advocates in Nevada are demanding that Democrats change, ignore or overturn the Senate parliamentarian's ruling.
On Friday, a group of protestors stood outside the Federal Building on South Las Vegas Boulevard to demand Congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden keep their campaign promises to provide a pathway to permanent residency to those brought to the country as children, TPS holders, essential workers and farm workers.
Activists with the National TPS Alliance and the Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center argued that the Senate parliamentarian's ruling is non-binding, adding that Democrats can't hide behind the ruling to excuse inaction on immigration reform.
“The racist opinions of the parliamentarian are a political smokescreen meant to confuse and divide us. We know that Democratic party leadership has the power to deliver permanent residency this year, and we call on them to keep their promises" said Walter Martinez, a member of the Culinary Union Local 226 and a TPS holder, who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years after immigrating to the United States from El Salvador.
The tough talk underscored the frustration built up in the immigrant community after years of promises from Democrats without results.
“They know they aren't doing the right thing," said Garcia, who's lived in the U.S. for 25 years. “They're using the parliamentarian as a justification to not do the right thing. They're telling us it's her fault when they're the ones with the power in their hands."
“They owe us. During their campaign they promised a path to citizenship for TPS holders, DACA, and essential workers but they keep exploiting us."
A study released earlier this year by the Center for American Progress and the University of California, Davis, Global Migration Center found that allowing Dreamers, individuals with temporary humanitarian protections and undocumented essential workers to become permanent residents would increase the U.S. gross domestic product by a cumulative total of $1.7 trillion over 10 years and create more than 400,000 new jobs.
However, in her decision to reject a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, the Senate Parmilitarioan wrote, “the policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation."
Under budget reconciliation rules, the Senate can't consider matters that are deemed “extraneous" to the budget.
Ramon Estrada, a realtor and TPS holder, disagreed with the parliamentarian's assessment. He said he pays taxes and has contributed to the country for 25 years as a construction and restaurant worker.
“We've worked for everything we have," Estrada said in Spanish. “Stop using us as puppets. If they give us residency we could contribute a lot more economically to this country."
More importantly, Estrada and his wife Maricruz Salvador haven't been able to see their children in 25 years because TPS does not automatically grant the ability to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad.
“It's not easy for me to talk about this because I haven't seen my children in 25 years and haven't been able to leave the country," Salvador said through tears. “It's really sad to be in this country alone without the support of my family."
“We're asking for support. We're asking for help," Salvador said in Spanish. “We're asking for a document so we can be free and know that we count in this country."
The group of activists agreed: the budget reconciliation is the only clear path to citizenship for millions of immigrants.
In July, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and several other Senate Democrats told Biden reconciliation was their best opportunity at passing immigration reform.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told immigration advocates “If we don't have reconciliation I'm not sure that there's a pathway forward" for immigration reforms.
Menendez told advocates he'd been involved in bipartisan talks with Republican colleagues for several months in hopes of finding common ground on immigration, however, the meetings have remained unproductive.
Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: email@example.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki used a question from Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy to remind the public that former President Donald Trump had incited an insurrection with his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
During a White House press briefing on Monday, Doocy suggested that President Joe Biden had broken a promise not to interfere with the Department of Justice because he had spoken about the prosecution of Trump supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
"The president continues to believe that Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our democracy," Psaki explained. "He also continues to believe that the Department of Justice has the purview and the independence to make decisions about prosecutions."
"You say that that is his view but that is not what he said," Doocy pushed back.
"I just conveyed what his view is and that is also how he has operated, how he has governed and how he will continue to govern," Psaki insisted.
Doocy continued to press by noting that Biden had vowed not to "do what former President Trump does" by using the Department of Justice as a tool against his enemies.
"Well, since you give me the opportunity," Psaki replied, "the former president used his office to incite an insurrection, he put political pressure on senior DOJ officials to propagate lies about the election to the point where they threatened to resign en masse. I think there's hardly a comparison there."
Doocy refused to accept the answer, noting that Biden had said that he would not pressure the Justice Department.
"And he has not," Psaki remarked as Doocy protested.
Watch the video below from Fox News.
The federal government has seized two vehicles, and is threatening to seize a lake house, allegedly purchased illegally with COVID-19 relief money by a Kansas City-area businessman.
The property was seized from several real estate companies incorporated in Kansas by Joseph Campbell, with most operating under a version of the name Titan Fish.
According to a complaint filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas, in early 2020 Campbell submitted 20 applications to the Small Business Administration for federal disaster loans made available under the CARES Act.
Most were deemed duplicates of other applications, the complaint says, and five were granted.
Campbell's companies received nearly $1 million in aid that was supposed to be used to pay debts, payroll and other bills that could have been paid had the COVID-19 pandemic not occurred.
According to an affidavit filed by Richard Littrell, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, Campbell's applications contained false information and he used the money he received to purchase two vehicles and a lake house in Morgan County, Missouri.
“Based on the information set forth in this affidavit, there is probable cause to believe Campbell committed violations of wire fraud and money laundering," said Littrell, who conducts money laundering investigations as part of the Kansas City Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.
Littrell later added that there is probable cause that the vehicles and property “were purchased with proceeds derived or obtained from the wire fraud violations."
The two vehicles — a 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 and a 2017 Ford Explorer — have been seized by the government. The lake house has not yet been seized.
Campbell did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Danielle Thomas, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas, said she cannot comment on open cases beyond what is available in the public record.
Titan Fish, based in Shawnee, Kansas, is described on its website as “special situation investors that focus on unique investment opportunities in real estate, energy and other real assets."
The company garnered attention in 2017 when it purchased the former Rockwood Golf Club in Independence for $550,000 from a company that had owned the property for several years.
Just months after that purchase, the Independence City Council voted to buy the golf course from Titan Fish for $1 million in order to use it to build a solar farm.
The deal drew FBI scrutiny over a series of donations to Independence Mayor Eileen Weir days before she voted to approve the purchase.
Those donations came from four political action committees connected to lobbyist Steve Tilley, a former state lawmaker and longtime friend and adviser to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
Tilley's lobbying firm represents Independence's utility and the company chosen to operate the solar farm.
In 2019 Tilley began representing Titan Fish, and a year later was part of a proposal involving Titan Fish to repurpose a power plant owned by Independence.
Titan Fish and Tilley severed ties shortly after details of the proposal were made public.
Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jason Hancock for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Missouri Independent on Facebook and Twitter.
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