Election 2020

Sanctuary City Debate Could Dominate Silver State in 2018 Election

Immigration protesters walk along a road during a May Day march May 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Nevada doesn’t have a single sanctuary city where local police are stopped from cooperating with federal ICE agents; Republican state Senate leader and candidate for lieutenant governor Michael Roberson wants to make sure no municipality in the state ever considers such an idea.

However, Democrat Sen. Yvanna Cancela, with whom Roberson battled over sanctuary status for all of Nevada, told her Twitter followers that his proposal is nothing but a “pathetic and divisive political stunt.”

This debate is more than one GOPer and one Democrat battling in the Nevada Legislature.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks wrote back in July that the debate over sanctuary cities in Nevada would boil over into a critical 2018 election issue.

“Nevada Republicans up and down the ballot believe they’ve found a winning issue — prohibiting sanctuary cities,” Joecks wrote.

Democrats tried to make Nevada a sanctuary state during the 2017 legislative session with Senate Bill 223. It would have stopped state and local police from participating in immigration operations.

“This dangerous legislation was opposed by local law enforcement and would have led to violent criminals being released back onto our streets instead of being removed from our country,” Roberson said in a statement.

Cancela tweeted that the idea that she or anyone else backing sanctuary state legislation would want “dangerous criminals on our streets…is ridiculous and misleading.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Roberson is afraid that if Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Giunchigliani wins the 2018 election she will do as promised and sign sanctuary state legislation.

Roberson said he also fears Cancela will try again to win approval for a rewrite of SB 223.

“Without safeguards and protections in place, we are one election away from Nevada becoming a sanctuary state,” Roberson said.

Roberson is the honorary chairman of the Prevent Sanctuary Cities political action committee, which filed paperwork Oct. 30 to place a proposed constitutional amendment on Nevada’s 2018 ballot to block sanctuary cities.

The amendment would block the Nevada Legislature from enacting a law or “otherwise adopt, enforce or endorse a policy that prohibits, limits or discourages cooperation with the enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States.”

It also blocks county commission boards in Nevada and all city governments from getting in the way of local police cooperation with federal ICE agents.

Prevent Sanctuary Cities will need to collect more than 110,000 signatures to get the ballot proposal on the 2018 ballot, and assuming voters pass the proposition Roberson’s group will have to do it all over again in 2020.

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Michael Kagan told KNPR the ballot measure is nothing but a way to boost GOP voter turnout next November. He also contended the proposal was overly broad and would probably increase rape and domestic violence in Nevada.

Kagan said the ballot proposal would make victims of those crimes less likely to report the assaults because of their fear of being turned over to immigration officials.

“I think that this is a measure on the policy that will be helpful to criminals,” Kagan said, “It won’t change much in the way law enforcement works but it will give victims of crime and witnesses to crime more reason to be afraid.”

Kagan also said Roberson’s amendment to block sanctuary cities in Nevada was written in such a way that it would target all immigrants, not just immigrants with criminal records.

But Roberson stressed his proposal is only intended to make sure police agencies in Nevada are allowed to continue working with federal agencies as they do now.

“We’re not talking about passing a law or constitutional amendment that would allow local law enforcement to go door-to-door and round individuals up,” Roberson said. “That’s not what we’re talking about at all.”

Whatever the motivation, Victor Joeks believes Nevada Republicans have discovered a “political winner” in their drive to block sanctuary cities.

“I reviewed an unreleased Republican poll that shows 65 percent of likely voters in Nevada support banning sanctuary cities,” Joecks wrote. “That support isn’t rooted in the rurals. Support sits at 63 percent in Clark County and at over 60 percent among both men and women.”

“In Nevada, sanctuary cities protect just one thing,” Joecks concluded: “Republican political prospects.”