(As we conclude Week 2 of the Trump Administration, here’s the second installment of our look back at how Donald Trump’s Presidency began… And how Nevadans reacted to it.)
On January 21, at least 3.2 million Americans took to the streets to make their voices heard and make clear to the nation’s new leaders in Washington, DC, that they are not backing down. But now, what? That’s the question on the minds of progressives nationwide and in Nevada.
Can this new wave of activism be sustained? Will those inside the US Capitol recognize why over 500,000 protested outside on Saturday? Can the larger progressive movement finally rise from the ashes of last year’s election?
To find answers, I ventured to the one place that played a major role in Nevada bucking the trend of most other battleground states flipping red. At Culinary Union HQ just north of the Las Vegas Strip on January 24, NARAL Pro-choice Nevada held its first “Feminist Civic Engagement Training”. A mix of long-time activists and political newcomers gathered at Culinary 226 to discuss next steps with the march in the rear-view mirror and the 79th Session of the Nevada Legislature drawing near.
With the new administration in D.C., feminists now have to “play defense” in terms of fighting hard against any attempts to curtail access to women’s health care and roll back civil rights overall. But with the new leadership in Carson City, progressives have the opportunity to advance policies such as expanding health care access, ensuring equal pay for equal work, and fighting other forms of discrimination.
Can Nevada serve as an example of what can still happen in America?
Speaking to a full house at Culinary Union headquarters in Downtown Las Vegas, NARAL Nevada Organizing Coordinator Electra McGrath Skrzydlewski reminded attendees that they are not alone. “We are a majority.” Citing recent Pew Research Center polls showing 69% of Americans oppose a complete reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade, Electra reassured the activists in the room that they are indeed the majority in America. She also reassured them that NARAL will continue to fight any and all attacks on reproductive freedom at the federal level.
Electra also made sure attendees knew that there’s the potential for a major bright spot for civil rights and women’s health care in America: Nevada.
Because reproductive freedom is written into the Nevada Constitution, activists have successfully fended off multiple threats to reproductive health care access in the past 26 years. Yet since Question 7 passed in 1990, Nevada hasn’t seen very much expansion of women’s reproductive rights. That may change when the 79th Session of the Nevada Legislature convenes next month.
Already, we can see hints of this in the Bill Draft Request (BDR) list on NELIS. State Senator Julia Ratti (D-Reno) has proposed a bill to codify and expand into Nevada law the women’s health provisions in the federal Affordable Care Act. There are also BDR’s pertaining to pay equity, raising the minimum wage, investing in renewable energy, and much more.
Following President Trump’s executive orders threatening construction of a border wall and stricter crackdowns on immigrant communities (while leaving up in the air how to pay for any of it), iAmerica and Las Vegas area immigrant rights activists gathered at the Chispa office east of the Las Vegas Strip for an emergency meeting.
At Chispa, they combed through Trump’s latest series of threats while also discussing how to fight back.
“No rational local government would want to be anywhere near this. […] My advice for local law enforcement in Nevada: Stay as far away from this as possible.” UNLV Boyd Law School Professor Michael Kagan advised the State of Nevada and local law enforcement agencies against complying with President Trump’s executive actions. He reminded the audience that courts regularly hold state and municipal governments liable when they comply with federal crackdowns on immigrant communities, only for those crackdowns to later be struck down as unconstitutional.
Kagan and other legal experts warned of challenges ahead, but they also cut through the White House’s spin to explain why at least some of Trump’s actions ultimately may not stand in a court of law. We may not have to wait too long to see if Kagan’s prediction proves true, as immigrant rights activists are already threatening to sue.
“We’re all here to help.” Representatives from Rep. Dina Titus’ (D-Paradise) Las Vegas district office and US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D) Las Vegas office were also on hand to reassure immigrant communities that their offices will remain open and welcoming to all constituents.
State Senator Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas) continued the conversation that had begun the previous night at the NARAL training as she noted BDR’s have been submitted on implementing policies to shield communities who may be the most vulnerable to potential White House ordered raids. But in warning against complacency, she urged community members to stay involved and lobby their legislators when session begins. “It’s only going to move if all of you are involved. […] We have to do it together.”
And again, progressives are looking to Carson City for hope. Considering Governor Sandoval’s recent statements, is he willing to stick his neck out for Nevada’s immigrant communities? Will the Legislature move to shield aspiring Americans from deportation squads? And can action be taken even closer to home?
“No matter where a student is born, one is entitled to public education.” Rep. Dina Titus
Rep. Dina Titus made a surprise appearance at the Clark County School District (CCSD) Board of Trustees meeting to speak in favor of Trustee Carolyn Edwards’ resolution. Edwards’ resolution states ICE and other law enforcement agencies must obey the law in respecting due process. It also guarantees students’ safety to learn at CCSD schools regardless of immigration status.
“When we hurt students, we cross the line. […] They have to feel safe at school. They have to be welcomed.” CCSD Trustee Linda Young welcomed her colleague’s motion. She recounted the days when she and other African-American students were more vulnerable to all sorts of discrimination in schools. Trustee Erin Cranor also agreed as she aimed to clarify what the resolution was about. “We have a constitutional duty to provide free public education to the community.” (The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe in 1982 that school districts are forbidden from denying public education to undocumented students.)
In a remarkable display of force several Nevadans from various walks of life, from Rep. Titus to Former Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid (D) to nationally renowned DREAMer activist Astrid Silva to CCSD teachers and concerned parents, testified in favor of Carolyn Edwards’ resolution. Despite the howls of protest from certain corners of the anti-immigrant “alt-right” when news first broke of CCSD Trustees considering this resolution, no one formally spoke against the resolution at the board meeting.
Ultimately Agenda Item 4.01 passed six to one, with solely Trustee Chris Garvey voting against it.
As massive as the Women’s Marches were, progressives are hoping they are not the end of the resistance… But rather, the beginning. They have the chance now to prove “The Resistance” only began on January 21.
We have already seen signs of a sustained “Resistance” here in Nevada, one that has the potential to affect state and local policy while also fighting hard against President Trump’s agenda at the federal level. Can this momentum last? Whatever the case, the next 12o or so days should be quite interesting.