Democrats see Trump’s Nevada trip as an opening to focus on immigration

President Trump speaks about immigration on June 22, 2018.

President Donald Trump is in Las Vegas on Saturday – and Democrats are thrilled about it.

With the nation focused on Trump’s policy that’s resulted in children being separating from their parents at the border, the efforts to undo that practice and the congressional struggle to advance an immigration bill, Trump is traveling to a crucial state where immigration is at the forefront of the political debate.

Nevada’s population is 28 percent Latino – and even higher than that in Clark County, the home of Las Vegas and the source of the vast majority of Democratic votes in the state. And with powerful labor groups like the Culinary Union and a political machine built by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats here are organized.

“Donald Trump cannot come to Nevada and demonize immigrants,” said Steven Horsford, a Democratic former congressman running against Republican Cresent Hardy in southern Nevada’s 4th District.

“Nevadans won’t accept it, and it’s a large part why Trump did not win in Nevada in 2016 – because Nevadans could not stomach the divisiveness and attacks on immigrants,” Horsford added.

Nevada, a swing state in presidential years that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, is among the most important states in this year’s midterm elections, with a Senate seat, the governor’s office and two competitive House races on the ballot.

Trump’s visit is scheduled to include a speech at the state GOP’s convention, a fundraiser for Sen. Dean Heller – the nation’s most endangered Republican incumbent senator in November’s midterms – and a roundtable discussion on tax restructuring.

Democrats will be counter-programming with their own state convention in Reno, featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and highlighting the party’s Senate candidate challenging Heller, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen.

Warren will also stop in Henderson, near Las Vegas, for an evening event with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Democrats say they’ll use the day in part to highlight the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the border after they’ve entered the US illegally, and the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to pass an immigration bill that protects the young undocumented immigrants – sometimes called DREAMers – who had been protected from deportation under former President Barack Obama through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump ended.

Trump signed an executive order Wednesday intended to end the family separations but it’s unclear how families already divided will be reunited.

Heller previously said he doesn’t support the family separations but that it was up to Congress, rather than Trump, to halt them.

Heller “really could hold the President accountable,” Rosen deputy campaign manager Mariela Hernandez said. “They’re going to spend a lot of time together, and this would be an opportunity for Sen. Heller to really stand up on this issue and say, ‘This is not right and the President needs to do something about it.'”

Rosen and Cortez Masto are planning trips Monday to tour separate detention facilities in Texas. Rosen has also released a Spanish-language television ad airing during the World Cup that highlights the family separations on the border.

“Jacky Rosen is the Democratic congresswoman who is not afraid to stand up to Trump, fight for a path for Dreamers toward a secure future and against Trump’s dirty game of separating mothers from their children,” the ad says.

“For Nevada, the issue of immigration is a big one,” Hernandez said. “A lot of the families here are mixed-status families – you have parents who may be U.S. citizens, or one of them is. Children who are born here, but their sibling is a DACA recipient.”

Heller and Hardy’s campaigns did not respond to requests for interviews or comment.

A spokesman for Republican Danny Tarkanian, who is facing Democratic philanthropist Susie Lee in Nevada’s 3rd District House race, declined to comment.

Democrats, meanwhile, say their opponents have been far too slow to challenge Trump – particularly this week.

“Honestly, I’ve heard more from people who are not immigrants who are as disgusted and discouraged by the events that are taking place and tearing families apart as anyone else,” Horsford said. “So this is an issue that crosses demographic lines; it crosses party lines. It goes to the core of who we are as human beings.”