Heller declined invitation to visit UNLV immigration clinic

heller speaking
Sen. Dean Heller speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“I’ve heard from over 3,500 of my constituents from across the state share their concerns about these families that have been separated,” Nevada Sen. Dean Heller said on the U.S. Senate floor Wednesday. “My constituents spoke to families split apart at the border and some are held in Southern Nevada and they are, frankly, asking for help.”

In February, Heller declined an invitation from the UNLV Immigration Clinic to visit with unaccompanied children in Las Vegas from Central America who the clinic represents. “His staff told us that his schedule was full with campaign events,” Kagan said in an email Wednesday.

As of May, nearly 1,500 deportation cases were pending against children in the Las Vegas Immigration Court. More than a third of the children had no legal representation. The UNLV Immigration Clinic, which provides legal assistance to immigrants, had 179 open cases as of earlier this month, 106 of which involve unaccompanied children.

All other members of the U.S. House from Southern Nevada accepted invitations to the clinic, as did Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Cortez Masto and Rep. Ruben Kihuen also visited border detention centers in June as Trump administration family separation policies were prompting a national public opinion backlash.

Clinic staff were disappointed that Heller declined to visit but Kagan said the offer still stands if Heller is interested in meeting with some of the immigrant children who are now living in his district.

“We are glad he is concerned about the issue of children and families who fled violence,” Kagan said.

Meantime, Heller is correct that family members who have been separated are being held in Southern Nevada.

“I can confirm that there are definitely parents who have had children taken away from them who have been sent to Nevada” and who the clinic now represents, Kagan said earlier this month in an interview with the Current.

Heller was speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday in support of a Republican bill to keep families detained together rather than separately. The bill was blocked from proceeding, as was a Democratic measure to keep families together with the “presumption” they would not be detained, The Hill reported.

Heller’s office could not be reached for comment.

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

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