Controversial immigration bill dies in legislature

Statement from Yvanna Cancella explaining why SB 223 would not be moving forward.

Senate Bill 223, a bill that would put in place certain restrictions on local law enforcement with regard to immigration enforcement, was killed last Tuesday, March 28.

State Senator Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, who introduced the bill last month, said in a statement, “SB 223 is not moving forward. The reality is, what was a moderate bill to protect local law enforcement from doing federal immigration work and would have been amended to codify policy on not asking for immigration status into state law, became inundated with misinformation and politicized with fear.”

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D- Las Vegas, moved the legislation off the agenda last Friday, March 24. He said it was not yet ready for a hearing, despite statements from both Cancela and Sen. Tick Segerblom, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that indicated they thought the bill was ready to be heard.

“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.”

Ford also expressed disappointment in a statement of his own, saying his stems from the fact that lawmakers could not, “come up with a solution that accomplishes the goals of providing a greater degree of protection to the immigrant community and protecting local law enforcement’s relationship with that community.”

Cancela said she does not plan on giving up on working with local law enforcement on the issue of immigration.

“Going forward, I’m not giving up,” Cancela said. “As elected officials, I believe we have a responsibility to be the loudest voice for those who often can’t speak for themselves. 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.”

A bill in the Assembly, AB 357, that has language identical to Cancela’s original SB 223, sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Brooks, D- Las Vegas, may also be killed, according to Brooks.

“During my time working on AB 357 and watching the diligent efforts of Senator Cancela work on her bill, 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.”

These conversations about immigration in Carson City came after President Donald J. Trump released several related executive orders early in his presidency. One, in January, stated, “jurisdictions that fail to comply with the applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law,” while the other loosened the criteria ICE uses to prioritize deportations.

Worries over a clash with the Trump Administration increased again last month when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed Trump’s position, saying the Justice Department would work to “claw-back” around $4 billion in federal grant money that goes to fund over 100 “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

In an Assembly hearing last week for AB 357, Tom Robinson, Deputy Chief at the Reno Police Department, said the police department is already not allowed to stop a person merely based on suspicion that they are in the U.S. illegally, but does work with Federal law enforcement agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when interests align.

Chuck Callaway from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department echoed Robinson’s words, saying that the department does not perform immigration duties in the field and only cooperates with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement through their 287 (g) program.

The 287 (g) program notifies ICE when a person is a priority for deportation.

Supporters of SB 223 said the practice of the legislation would be to codify into law the rule that police cannot ask for a person’s immigration status at the point of contact.

“Senate Bill 223 is common sense and in many ways a practice that law enforcement already follows,” said the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada 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.”

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R- Las Vegas, has been a vocal critic of SB 223 from the beginning and said last week that the bill’s death was a “victory for Nevadans and for keeping our communities safe.”

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

Roberson encouraged concerned citizens to help kill AB 357, saying it would “provide sanctuary to criminal aliens and threaten the safety of our families and the well-being of our communities.

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