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Nevada Cops, GOP Stonewall Sanctuary State Legislation

State Sen. Yvanna Cancela (D) failed in her attempt to turn Nevada into a sanctuary state where police would be prohibited from cooperating with federal immigration officials. Even when she offered to water down the legislation so that Nevada would become kind of a sanctuary-lite state, her proposal was rejected.

It was the cops who shut her down. There was no way Nevada law enforcement lobbyists were willing to even allow a committee hearing on Senate Bill 223.

“Of course I’m disappointed,” Cancela said in a statement. “I worked hard to try and find a good compromise. Law enforcement did a tremendous job at being transparent with data and sharing ideas. I believe our state’s officers truly have the interest of protecting Nevada as their guiding principle.”

When she introduced the proposal, Cancela said she was only trying to help local and state law enforcement in Nevada.

“We don’t want our local law enforcement to have to do the work of ICE. ICE should do its work and law enforcement should continue to be able to do its work,” she told KUNR.

But Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers Executive Director Rick McCann effectively said thanks, but no thanks, we don’t need – or want – the help.

“While this legislative building has a lot of power over wages and benefits associated with law enforcement, it should have no involvement relative to the inner workings of how a law enforcement operation operates,” McCann said. “The manner in which they go out and do their business to keep us as the public safe, that’s not for these people in this building to dictate to. That is for the police departments to do.”

It was obvious Cancela’s proposal was in deep trouble when it was scratched from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda on the Friday before a Monday hearing.

“After continuing discussions on this issue over the last few days, Senator (Majority Leader Aaron) Ford (D) felt that there needed to be more conversations with the interested parties before the bill was ready for a hearing,” caucus spokesman Peter Koltak told the Nevada Independent via email a few hours after the decision was made.

The legislation was killed the next day, March 28.

The crushing defeat came after a month of backroom negotiations between Cancela, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Tick Segerblom (D) and Nevada law enforcement officials.

Cancela was willing to tone down the restrictions that would have been placed on local and state police under the original version of the legislation. But that wasn’t good enough for those on the other side of the negotiating table.

“I think we’ve come to the point where we agree to disagree,” said Chuck Callaway, a lobbyist for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, earlier this week. “She’s come as far as she can go and we appreciate that, but still we’re just at that point where we can’t support.”

While Cancela was forced to admit defeat and said she had no plans to reintroduce anything close to SB 223, at least not now, she is not giving up.

“As elected officials, I believe we have a responsibility to be the loudest voice for those who often can’t speak for themselves,” Cancela told the Nevada Sagebrush. “I’m continuing to work with stakeholders and will do everything I can to fight for our immigrant families – whether it’s in Carson City, at protests, citizenship fairs, now more than ever we must stand strong.”

Cancela’s proposal is not the only sanctuary-state legislation that failed to crack law enforcement’s blue wall of lobbyists in the Nevada Legislature in March.

Another Democrat, Assemblyman Chris Brooks, offered a proposal, AB 357, that was identical to Cancela’s original, hardcore version of SB 223. He, too, had to admit defeat.

“It became clear that stakeholders could not reach a consensus on how to proceed, despite honest efforts from everyone at the table,” Brooks said in a statement. “While this has been a difficult decision, I believe it would be irresponsible to continue pushing my bill forward in its current form without having a clear path to passage and agreement from all stakeholders.”

Among those who refused to support SB 223 and AB 357 were Cancela and Brooks’ fellow Democrats in Carson City.

Segerbloom refused to use the word “Democrat” when he talked to the Nevada Independent about the failure of the sanctuary city legislation. But he did admit there was not the kind of legislative lift needed to move the proposals forward.

“There are groups that we have to deal with, police, and we just want to make sure that we get their support if we can,” Segerblom said.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada was on Cancela’s side in this debate.

“Senate Bill 223 is common sense and in many ways a practice that law enforcement already follows,” the alliance said in a statement. “Codifying it into law ensures that a renegade sheriff can’t change the tactics and ensnare law-abiding Nevadans into a cruel and complicated immigration system.”

But if the PLA, Cancela, Brooks and Segerblom decide to try again, they can be sure they won’t have the support of Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson.

He called the defeat of SB 223 and AB 357 a “victory for Nevadans.”

“I made the defeat of the sanctuary state bills my top priority and neither bill even received a legislative hearing,” Roberson said. “I will remain vigilant and will fight against any effort to resurrect this legislation before the end of the session.”