Issues

When I was 8 years old, my parents made a risky and courageous decision to move their young family from Mexico to the United States. Without a dollar between them, they set out for America, where the promise of well-paying jobs, a good education and home ownership were available to all those willing to work hard and play by the rules. They sought and achieved the American dream.

Today Nevadans from all walks of life see the reality of that American dream slipping away. Families work harder for less. Everyday Americans can’t afford to send their kids to college. Women earn less for doing the same jobs as their male colleagues.

Worse still, Congressional Republicans care more about serving the wealthy and elite that fund their campaigns than affecting real change for their constituents. They consistently choose to put the profits of big corporations over the welfare of people. We must do better.

Below you will find my proposals to reverse these trends, and a plan to put people before profits. These policies will ensure that ALL Nevadans have the opportunities my family and I enjoyed for generations to come.

Addressing Wealth Inequality and Holding Wall Street Accountable

According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the 20 wealthiest Americans, who could fit in a single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet,­ now own more wealth than half of the American population. Average Americans work longer hours for less pay. This growing wealth and income inequality is simply unacceptable.

We didn’t get here by accident. Congress is controlled by the wealthy and the elite, by Wall Street bankers and billionaires, who have rigged the system against working families to protect their own bottom line.

I have seen this greed first-hand. In 2004, I bought my first home near Canyon Springs High School, right in the heart of North Las Vegas. Like so many Nevadans and Americans, I was eager to own my own home and my bank was eager to help me achieve that dream. So eager that they sold me a subprime mortgage.

As my interest rates rose and the economy crashed, I found that my home was underwater and I was unable to pay the mortgage. I know the pain and embarrassment of missing your first payment: the collection notices, the tax liens, losing your home to foreclosure. I lived through it.

Many, especially those on Wall Street, want to blame me and millions like me who lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis. Maybe we should have been smarter, read the fine print and not just trusted our bank. But the truth is that this wasn’t a case of a handful of Americans making bad financial decisions. It was widespread fraud by large banks and Wall Street bankers looking to turn a quick profit at the expense of people’s financial security and well-being.

Worst still, after the economic collapse, the same elite that ruined so many lives and so many dreams demanded that the American people bail them out. Then, they demanded that there be no consequences or accountability for the wrong they had done.

It’s time to hold Wall Street accountable and ensure they cannot continue to put short-term profits ahead of people’s lives.

In Congress, I will:

  • Sponsor legislation to hold Wall Street executives accountable when they defraud the American People and ensure criminal behavior is prosecuted, even if the criminals wear a suit and work in downtown Manhattan.
  • Fight any effort to roll back Dodd-Frank and work to pass new, tough regulations on Wall Street including an end to the Volcker Rule’s hedge fund loophole, increased regulation of the shadow banking system, and fight to make the stock market more fair so high frequency scalpers are not allowed to reap profits off the backs of everyday Americans.
  • End the absurd carried interest tax loophole that allows Wall Street to claim their profits as capital gains instead of income. No hedge fund manager should pay a lower tax rate than his or her secretary.

Investing in our Children

As a young immigrant, the education I received from the Clark County School District is the reason I am here today. I deeply believe in public education and believe we have an obligation to ensure all students, regardless of the color of their skin or the income of their parents, receive a top-notch education.

In the 2015 legislative session, I helped lead the way toward a solution to fully-fund K-12 education in Nevada by passing the largest investment in our our state’s history. I fought to include funding for full day kindergarten, English language learner programs and zoom schools.

In Congress, I will:

  • Continue the fight to fully-fund early childhood education through the Head Start Program.
  • Oppose any effort to put profits over people by diverting public school funding to private schools through vouchers.
  • Ensure teachers have the proper training and tools they need to give our children the best education.

Making College More Affordable

As the son of a housekeeper and former farmer worker, I didn’t have a college fund. I worked my way through community college and UNLV with the help of Pell Grants, but now for too many students that is no longer enough to cover the explosive costs of college in America.

Instead of working together to find solutions, too many Members of Congress, like Congressman Cresent Hardy, have chosen to ignore and exacerbate the problem. In fact, while Congressman Hardy voted twice to slash the Pell Grant program, I authored and passed the Silver State Opportunity Plan, creating the ­first ever grant program for low-income students wishing to attending college in Nevada. In the fi­rst year, the program has already helped nearly 1400 young Nevada students achieve their dream of attending college.

It’s time we make debt-free college a national priority and ensure the next generation can lead our economy forward free of the burden of tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

In Congress, I will:

  • Sponsor legislation to end the U.S. Government’s practice of profiting from student loans. If the big banks can borrow money at or near 0% interest, so too should our students.
  • Fight to make public colleges, universities and community colleges 100% free for all those who wish to attend.
  • Work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Congressional investigators to hold companies like Navient, the student loan servicing company, accountable when they take advantage of students in debt to bolster their profits.

Ensuring Families Get Ahead

Nevada families are getting squeezed from all sides and are increasingly forced to choose between spending time with their loved ones or make a living. It’s time to end the pay gap once and for all and ensure all families have a fair shot at living the American Dream.

Equal Pay

It is unacceptable that if a woman and a man do the same job, on average, the woman will make 30% less. That’s why I sponsored and passed legislation to crack down on employers knowingly paying women less than men in Nevada. I also sponsored a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

At the Federal level, Republicans continually block legislation that would offer real protections for women unfairly treated in the workplace. Congressman Hardy has voted twice to block equal pay legislation.

In Congress, I will proudly sponsor and fight for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Paid Leave

Nearly every modern economy offers paid leave to help welcome new members of your family to the world or to heal from injury or sickness. It’s unacceptable that in the wealthiest country in the world that we’d require people to leave their children days after birth to return to work or force people to choose between a paycheck and healing.

In Congress, I will to ensure all Americans have access to paid sick leave and paid family leave.

Access to Affordable Child Care

The average cost of childcare is over $11,000 a year. For many it is not a choice to watch their children outside of schools — most Americans do not have jobs that give them that flexibility. We must ensure that all families have access to affordable childcare to allow working women and men to provide for their family without the uncertainty of who will watch their children.

In Congress, I will fight to stop child care from being relegated to a ‘women’s issues’ and put it front and center as a critical issue we must address to build an economy that works for all families.

Raising the Minimum Wage

If you work 40 hours a week and make the Nevada minimum wage of $8.25/hour, you are living in poverty. That is simply unacceptable. No one in the United States who works full time should live in poverty.

In 2015, I presented the bill in the Nevada legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Unfortunately, the reckless Republicans who controlled the legislature killed the bill.

I have been a strong advocate for increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Nevada and I will continue to fight for an increase at the Federal level in Congress.

A Dignified Retirement for Our Seniors

With the number of people with pensions dwindling and the number of people retiring increasing, we must protect and expand Social Security and Medicare to ensure a dignified retirement for our seniors. Republicans like Congressman Cresent Hardy continually attempt to privatize Social Security and voucherize Medicare, efforts that would destroy the retirement safety net we’ve created and paid into for decades.

Republicans would leave our seniors retirement up to the whims of Wall Street. That is unacceptable.

The total number of Americans who need long-term care will more than double by 2050. We should expand access to affordable long term care and ensure that professionals, as well as loved ones, who take care of them to have the support they need.

In Congress, I will:

  • Fight any attempt to privatize, voucherize, reduce benefits or otherwise undermine Social Security or Medicare.
  • Scrap the payroll tax cap to ensure the wealthiest pay their fair share for Social Security. The wealthiest Americans stop paying taxes for Social Security on January 2nd, that’s just wrong.
  • Expand Social Security benefits to give our seniors the dignified retirement they deserve.

The Homecoming Our Veterans Deserve

No soldier or veteran should return home to economic hardship, poor health care services or an unresponsive government. Those who risked their lives to serve our country deserve better.

Unfortunately, spending decisions for our military and veterans are often made by Member of Congress trying to please defense company lobbyists or bring jobs to their district instead of what is best for our service members. Our military spending decisions should be made by those we entrust to defend this nation, not by lobbyists trying to ensure a good quarter for shareholders.

The unfair budget process that benefits defense contractors more than the men and women who serve is outrageous and led to drastically lower funding of critical services for our soldiers and veterans. That is why in the Legislature, I worked with Assemblyman Elliot Anderson to fund and improve mental health services for veterans here in Nevada.

In Congress, I will:

  • Reform the DOD budget process to put the needs of those who defend our country first instead of wasteful or duplicative projects that only benefit defense contractors and the Members of Congress they contribute to.
  • Fully-fund the VA system to shorten wait times and improve care while reforming critical gaps in service like a lack of dental benefits.
  • Build on reforms that have been made that make it easier for veterans who live in rural areas to get care without having to drive hours to the nearest VA facility.
  • Ensure that veterans have a strong advocate to fight for the benefits they have earned but have been wrongly denied.

Combating Climate Change and Protecting Our Environment

For too long, big oil companies and polluters have determined our environmental policy in this country with an army of lobbyists. We cannot afford to allow big polluters to put profits above the health of our families and our planet. We must act now to stop climate change and protect our environment for the generations that follow.

Congressman Cresent Hardy seems to take his conservation cues, particularly on land management, from his good friend Cliven Bundy. That’s not the type of leadership Nevada needs. I am proud of my 94% lifetime rating from the Nevada Conservation League. In the legislature, I championed bills to increase the percentage of our state’s energy that is produced by renewable energy, and I have been a long-time advocate for protecting our public lands such as Basin and Range and Gold Butte.

In Congress, I will:

  • End subsidies for big oil companies.
  • Invest the money we’ve been handing over to big oil into expanding our renewable energy portfolio and ensure that we lead the way on creating a clean energy economy that will provide new jobs.
  • Ensure that polluters pay for the damage they’re doing to the environment.
  • Be a voice for keeping our public lands in public hands and push for a funding increase in our land and water conservation fund to protect America’s great places.

Reforming Our Criminal Justice System

I grew up in the heart of North Las Vegas, and I have seen first-hand the distrust between police and the minority communities they are meant to serve. As we see more police overreactions like Ferguson and Baltimore and unjust killing of young minority men, we must take immediate, tangible action to address injustice.

That’s why in the legislature I supported legislation to require police to wear body cameras. This commonsense step helps protect our citizens and our police.

But reforming the way our police interact with citizens is just one small step. Fundamentally we must reform the way our system works. Currently the for-profit prison industry makes nearly $5 billion a year incarcerating disproportionately young minority men. No one should profit off of the imprisonment of any person. Period.

In Congress, I will:

  • Sponsor legislation to end for-profit prisons in America.
  • Work on criminal justice reform legislation that ensures that young men in this country are not caught in the revolving door of prison.
  • Use Congress’ oversight ability to ensure the Justice Department properly investigates and holds police departments accountable in cases of corruption and excessive force including more citizens review boards like we have here in Las Vegas.
  • Work to end the practice of selling excess military supplies to local police departments.

Preventing Gun Violence

Every day 88 Americans are killed with guns. It seems that everyday we turn on the news we are faced with another mass shooting and yet, in the three years since one of the most heartbreaking shootings at Newtown, Congress has failed to pass any meaningful legislation to curb the epidemic of gun violence.

In the State Senate, I helped champion legislation to require universal background checks for all gun sales in Nevada and I called for a special legislative session shortly after the tragic incident in San Bernardino, to address gun violence prevention – including closing the terrorist watch-list loophole. I fought against reckless Republican bills that would have allowed guns in our public schools, including college campuses and elementary schools.

The truth is the fight against gun violence prevention is dominated by the National Rifle Association. The NRA claims to stand for personal freedoms, but they really only exist to protect the bottom line of the big gun companies. We must expose the NRA for the profit-protecting, corporate machine that they are.

In Congress, I will:

  • Fight for universal background checks for all gun sales.
  • Ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
  • End the gun show and terrorist watch-list loopholes.
  • Stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby who exist only to protect the bottom line of gun companies.

Fixing Our Corrupt Campaign Finance System

Congress is controlled by the wealthy and the elite. They use their influence to buy members of Congress through direct contributions as well as unlimited spending through SuperPACs. Congress shouldn’t be controlled by millionaires and billionaires, our Representatives should be working for the everyday Americans who sent them there.

In the Nevada legislature, I supported legislation to strengthen our campaign finance laws, improve the reporting of campaign contributions and make all of that data more accessible to the public.

In Congress, I will:

  • Sponsor a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizen United decision and once and for all state that government has to right to regulate the corrupting influence of money in politics.
  • Fight to immediately pass the DISCLOSE Act and require all outside groups report their donors.
  • Support public financing of elections, like the Government by the People Act, to finally get money out of politics entirely.

Ensuring Healthcare for All Americans

Reckless Republicans have tried time and time again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and throw millions of Americans back into a system that denies insurance for pre-existing conditions and leaves too many without affordable insurance options. Health care is a basic human right that must be protected.

I am proud to have fought for an expansion in Medicaid and the successful implementation of the ACA here in Nevada.

In Congress, I will:

  • Fight any attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • Demand lower prescription drug prices and give Medicare the ability to negotiate lower prices.
  • Expand Medicaid in all states to ensure that no American is uninsured because their Governor decided that ideology is more important than making healthcare available to their constituents.

Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Donald Trump wants to deport 11 million hardworking people, ripping families apart. Worst than his offensive and unrealistic policy proposals is how he and his fellow Republicans talk about immigrants in this country. They use ugly, dehumanizing language and show no respect for the hope this country offers for those around the world.

Ironically, my family and I, who immigrated to this country when I was 8, are only here because of Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform of 1986. President Reagan and so many others understood that when you give hardworking immigrants a chance, they contribute to our economy and help make this country the greatest in the world.

It’s time to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

There are a lot of specific policies proposals that can go into CIR and many should be worked out in a bipartisan debate on the House and Senate floors but let me be clear about the one, non-negotiable element of CIR: a pathway to citizenship.

Without a clear pathway to citizenship for those currently in the country and a reformed system for new immigrants to achieve citizenship, it simply cannot be called comprehensive and won’t get my vote. Period.