Las Vegas is known for its sprawling casinos, relaxed liquor laws and speedy marriages. And now the neon-lit city in the desert is poised to become the focal point of the national debate on immigration amid reports that President Barack Obama will travel there Friday to promote his plan to overhaul immigration policy without approval from Congress.
Obama has made frequent stops in Las Vegas since his 2008 presidential campaign. It's the most populous city in Nevada, an important battleground state divided between rural Republican voters in the north and its more Democratic southern end. It's also home to a growing population of active Latino voters who helped him carry the state in 2008 and 2012, and who also have kept Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in office.
The president's appearance on Friday is especially important for Nevada's many immigration reform activists, who have for years received promises from Reid and Obama that their political support would eventually be returned with new rights for the nation's 11 million immigrants living here illegally. Aware of the growing might of Nevada's Latino constituency, Republican lawmakers in the state have also expressed support for immigration reform in recent years.
Reid renewed his yearslong call for an immigration overhaul in an interview with Univision Tuesday. "I think it should be done now," he said.
Obama is scheduled to discuss his immigration plan in a nationally televised speech Thursday night, the White House said. The White House has not confirmed that Obama will formally detail his immigration plan in Las Vegas Friday, but all signs suggest he will, according to various media reports. Obama also spoke from Las Vegas in January 2013 when he first detailed his plan to go around Congress and grant legal status and other rights to more immigrants, according to the Washington Post.
The president's plan is expected to provide legal status to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. for a certain number of years. It could protect 5 million immigrants from deportation, or roughly 40 percent of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population.
Nevada has 268,000 Latino voters, or roughly 18 percent of the state electorate in 2012, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.