February 2, 2017 – By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s 1st U.S. House District Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, likes to boast about the diversity of her district.
It has a Hispanic Eastside and an Asian Westside. The Las Vegas Strip and its international visitors and citizens are within its boundaries.
“I have the most diverse district,” Titus said during a recent interview for Nevada Newsmakers. “We have a Greek church, the Armenian Church, Ethiopian cab drivers, a large Hispanic population, a large Pan-Asian population. So it puts me in a position to help all of those communities.”
Yet since Donald Trump has become president, a fear has gripped many of Titus’ constituents.
“Our (office) phone has been ringing off the hook from people who are just..scared,” Titus said.
Issues like the temporary travel ban from seven Muslim-majority nations, the fate of “Dreamers,” the reopening of the Yucca Mountain debate, the potential end to Obamacare plus Trump’s tough talk with Mexico and other foreign nations have all fed into the constituents’ fear, Titus said.
“I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but it (the word, fear) is accurate,” Titus said. “People are afraid, uncertain of what the future holds.
“They may lose their health care, they may have their families separated,” she said. “We may have Yucca Mountain (nuclear repository) moving forward in our back yard. And people don’t know what to do. They are beside themselves. They can’t believe a person can be president and act the way he (Trump) does. And he has moved swiftly but people should not be surprised because that is what he said he was going to do.”
Immigration issues are very real for District 1 constituents, Titus said. They are concerned that Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border will divide families and do little to stem illegal immigration.
“I appreciated the fact that the mayor of Berlin make a statement about the wall that used to be there and said, ‘See walls are not such a good idea,'” Titus said
“I’ve never seen a wall or fence that somebody could not crawl under or climb over,” Titus added. “The wall, besides being immoral and costing billions of dollars, I don’t think the Republicans really want to spend that much money on it.
“It is not going to work,” she said. “We’ve already got more border agents than we’ve ever had and we’ve got more technology with drones and all kinds of surveillance along the border than we’ve ever had. So I don’t know why they think a wall is going to be anything but symbolic.”
“Dreamers” are also worried, Titus said.
Those constituents are the undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with their parents at a young age and gained temporary legal status during the Obama years through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Since those those in the DACA program gave their personal information to the federal government, they would be easy to pick up in an immigration sweep.
So far, Trump has made no move to harm “Dreamers,” or those in the DACA program. Titus, however, is not convinced of Trump’s good intentions.
“Perhaps they (Trump administration) are just putting it off,” Titus said about action against Dreamers. “I really don’t trust them because in the middle of the night, you will get a tweet (from Trump) that reverses what they were talking about the day before.
“Our DACA recipients in Southern Nevada are very worried,” she continued. “They don’t know whether to apply to get an extension. They have given all their information to the government. They have made themselves vulnerable by doing the right things. We’ve gotten hundreds of phone calls from people who were scared, asking, ‘Are the families going to be separated? So, for now, it has been pushed to the back burner but I think we have to stay vigilant.”
Titus is also concerned that Trump’s relations with Mexico’s president — and his executive order that temporarily bans travel from the seven Muslim-majority nations — could potentially hurt international tourism, which is a huge market for the Las Vegas Strip.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s goal is to have 30 percent of its visitors from foreign countries by the early 2020s, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“It is bad (for tourism) and you would think Trump would understand that,” Titus said.
“We have have 43 million visitors a year and one-in-four of those comes from a foreign country,” Titus said. “We know that foreign tourists also go to the Grand Canyon and the (Hoover) Dam. They stay longer. They spend more. Nationwide, the international visitors contributed about $250 billion to the economy.
“If we make it difficult to come and if we send out the message that they are not welcome, it is going to have a tremendous impact not only on Nevada but the nation’s economy,” Titus said.
Trump’s travel ban was also criticized by a leading advertising executive with ties to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“The tonality, the harshness, the belligerence and the confrontation on Twitter isn’t going to serve us well for international visitation and, I dare say, international business relationships,” Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners, told the Review-Journal. R&R Partners is the LVCVA advertising consultant.
Titus will leave the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee for a new assignment on the Foreign Affairs Committee for the 2017 session of Congress. The move could help Las Vegas’ international tourism, Titus said.
“This will give me the ability to work on things like the Visa Waiver Program (allows citizens of specific countries to travel to U.S for tourism or business for 90 days without a visa) and will help with tourism, opening up more channels to deal with Brazil and India, which are potential sources of tourism because they have a growing middle class.”
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