By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Danny Tarkanian, the Republican candidate in the race for Nevada’s 3rd U.S. House District seat, laid out his immigration platform Wednesday on Nevada Newsmakers, breaking with the Trump administration on one major point:
Tarkanian, who has supported most of Trump’s policies but not the President’s personal foibles, said the U.S. immigration system should allow asylum seekers who are fleeing violence or dangerous living situations in their home nations.
Yet recently, President Trump has been openly critical of asylum seekers, tweeting his concerns over what he says are lax immigration laws that improperly allow immigrants into the country.
“What I believe in is a little bit of a break from what President Trump has been saying,” Tarkanian said. “I believe in bringing in people that are refugees from counties that are fleeing from life-threatening situations. The foundation of our country are people like that.”
Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, recently said victims of domestic abuse and gang violence generally will no longer qualify for asylum under federal law. It is a decision that advocates say will endanger thousands of foreign nationals seeking safety in the United States.
Tarkanian’s support for asylum seekers stems from his family’s roots, dating back to the Armenian Genocide of the early 20th century.
In 1915, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire began to expel and massacre Armenians, according to conventional and historical sources. By the early 1920s, an estimated 1.5 millions Armenians had been killed.
“My grandmother escaped the Armenian genocide where the Ottoman soldiers came in and massacred her village,” Tarkanian said. “And she came here, loved America, learned how to speak English, worked hard, two or three jobs and raised money. (It was) enough for my father to go to college and become the greatest basketball coach in the history of our country.”
Tarkanian, of course, is the son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who won the 1991 national basketball championship at UNLV and later was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Tarkanian differs from the Trump administration on another immigration point — it’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which led to the separation of nearly 3,000 families at the U.S. southern border earlier this summer.
“We certainly don’t want to separate any children from their parents,” Tarkanian said. “There has to be a solution where you protect our sovereignty and our rule of law without separating children.”
Most Americans agree on the primary points of the immigration debate, Tarkanian said.
“You can’t separate children from their parents. That is first and foremost,” Tarkanian said…. “And I believe most of the people who are seeing this show would agree with us about the points I am talking about. It is the politicians who won’t agree to it.”
“First and foremost, I believe most Americans want to have a secure border,” he said. “They believe we should know what is coming into our country and who is coming into our country and that we should control the border. And whether it is with the wall or technology, you could argue about that. But who is not in favor of a secure border?”
Chain migration, or family-based immigration, should be limited, Tarkanian said.
“(We should) revise the chain migration where immediate family members should be able to come in with whoever comes in legally, a spouse and immediate family,” he said. “It should not be opened up to second or fourth cousins. Reasonable people would agree with that.”
Tarkanian is also opposed to the lottery system of immigration, officially called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This program grants up to 50,000 immigrant visas annually, drawn from random selection.
“I don’t believe in the lottery system, where if you are lucky enough to come into the country, you are coming into the country because you win the Powerball something,” Tarkanian said
Tarkanian also wants to establish a system of electronic verification of employment eligibility (E-verify) to vet undocumented immigrants seeking jobs in the United States.
E-verify has become a contentious issue in the U.S. House. The Western Growers Association, representing growers of more than half the produce in the U.S., helped block E-verify legislation in July, according to news reports.
“I believe also we should have e-verification, where an employer has to verify who he hires and so we make sure they are in our country legally,” he said.
Tarkanian also wants to grant legal residency to those green-card immigrants who play by the rules.
“We have to find a solution to the people who are in our country and who are not breaking the law, who are following our system and who are an asset to our country,” Tarkanian said. “And I believe they should be given legal residency.”
Tarkanian also touched on immigration issues of people who have overstayed their visas.
More than 700,000 immigrants overstayed their visas in fiscal year 2017, according to estimates from the Department of Homeland Security.
The 700,000 estimation is about 300,000 more people than were apprehended trying to illegally cross the U.S./Mexico border the same year. The Homeland Security numbers indicate that visa overstays are a much larger source of illegal immigration than illegal southwestern border crossings.
“I would think that in today’s technology, that we would be able to track down people who have overstayed their visas and be able to identify those people and either have them removed or get their visas renewed if there is a good reason for it,” Tarkanian said.
Tarkanian sees another problem with the immigration/visa system in the U.S.
“We have lost a lot of intellectual assets, people who have come to our country, stayed here, went to college or learned a great trade and they are forced to leave our country and go back to wherever they came from or to another county of their choice,” he said. “Well, we could be using them here in the United States. Just a change in the law would allow those people to stay here. They could be great assets to our country and I am in favor of that.”
Watch this episode of Nevada Newsmakers here.