Though veterans’ issues dominated a town hall meeting with Rep. Mark Amodei in Carson City on Monday, immigration didn’t exactly take a back seat.
The Carson City Republican, who went to Congress 19 months ago, was asked about immigration by a participant. Amodei brought it out of the back seat by use of a car analogy to say it needs some serious work. He added it may get it in Washington, D.C. soon. He said immigration hasn’t been changed since the era of President Reagan.
“The last time this car was in for a tune-up was 35 years ago,” Amodei said. After listing various matters needing work, he concluded: “So there’s a whole bunch of stuff that we need to tune up. I think we’ll do something in the next 12 months.”
He said amnesty isn’t popular, nor is it an option, but he also cited the need for a guest worker program, as well as operational control of borders, and he told his audience most illegal persons in the country had overstayed their visas.
So, he said, some way to get them into the system short of amnesty and citizenship is needed, plus a penalty that is “draconian” for egregious violators.
Amodei also said he has yet to hear anyone with a workable plan regarding how, with limited resources, the federal government can round up millions of undocumented residents and ship them home.
Resources in general came up regarding other topics, but in the case of a backlog on claims at the Reno-based office of the Veterans Administration, Amodei indicated the fault lies less with resources as with how they are allocated. He said despite more resources generally, the VA hasn’t solved the problem in Northern Nevada.
“My frustration level is kind of high,” Amodei told a crowd of 65 or so, many of them veterans. “This isn’t getting better,”
He said he has pushed for a fix by bureaucratic people higher in the VA chain of command, but has gotten no response or non-responsive replies.
“On the bright front, the VA’s budget will continue to increase,” he said, partly because there are more veterans. But he said his frustration is from not getting higher-level VA personnel, if they made mistakes, to “own it and let’s move on.”
Ed Russell, director Reno’s VA office, was on hand. He told the crowd that despite 74 employees working on the backlog, it stays ahead of them. He said his crew, 70 percent of whom are veterans, is able to process 350 claims monthly but gets 600 in the same time frame.
Amodei also heard some individual or group complaints and comments about VA actions, though many praised the medical side while attacking the bureaucracy.
For example, Hillary Burson made a plea and a case on behalf of her husband, Roy, a Vietnam-era veteran. She said the couple can’t get a proper motorized wheel chair and her husband’s rights regarding guns were taken away. Amodei and the VA people on hand arranged for follow-up action.