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America’s Voice Responds to News of Harry Reid’s Retirement from the Senate

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“A Remarkable and Tireless Champion” of Immigration Reform, Says Frank Sharry 

In response to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (R-NV) announcement that he won’t seek re-election, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, issued this statement:

“When it comes to immigration reform, Senator Harry Reid has been a remarkable and tireless champion.  A review of his recent accomplishments tells the story.

This year he has rallied Senate Democrats to defend the President’s executive actions, policies that will provide relief to some 5 million undocumented immigrants.  In the last Congress he made sure immigration reform legislation was a priority.  He secured the votes of all Democrats and passed the bill on a bipartisan basis by a whopping 68-32 margin.  Had the House Republicans not slow-walked the legislation to death, it would have passed into law and led to millions of undocumented immigrants getting on a path to citizenship.

In 2010, during a time when too many Democrats shied away from immigration reform issues because they feared conservative blowback, Reid risked his own political career by bringing up the DREAM Act just weeks before an Election Day in which the polls had him trailing.  But he knew something that many operatives and pundits did not: his tireless work with Latinos in Nevada and his willingness to lean in on immigration reform mobilized Latino voters in a way that led to his remarkable upset re-election victory.  In fact, Latino and immigrant turnout in 2010 in Nevada and other states, such as Colorado, California and Washington, allowed Democrats keep majority control of the Senate, the first time since 1930 that a wave election flipped only one chamber.  And in 2011-12 Reid, as Dreamers and their allies pushed on the outside, he, along with other champions such as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), quietly and persistently pushed President Obama on the inside to take executive action on behalf of Dreamers.  And in June of 2012 DACA was announced and some 700,000 Dreamers now live freely and work legally because of it.

Interestingly, Senator Reid did not start out as a champion of immigration reform.  Early in his career he was something of a hardliner.  But he came to know Latinos in Washington DC and in Nevada and it changed him.  Of course, Reid is a masterful politician and tactician.  But he’s also a public servant who believes in doing what is right.  And as he came to know Latino immigrants and advocates, it became clear to me that he fell in love.  He got that these new Americans should be formally welcomed to a country they already love and already call home.  And in the great debate within the Democratic Party over immigration policy and strategy over the last decade, Reid eschewed the play-it-safe, steer-clear mentality of some and leaned in with courage and purpose.

We will miss him when he leaves the Senate.  In the meantime, we’re glad he’ll be around for the next two years to continue to be our champion.”