Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan said he believes politicians in “sanctuary cities” should be arrested and charged with crimes. Wochit
A Carson City judge on Friday dealt a major blow to backers of a controversial anti-sanctuary cities statewide ballot initiative, ruling the petition was too confusing to go before voters.
HERE’S MORE BACKGROUND: Proposed anti-sanctuary cities ballot measure in Nevada gets January court date
The proposed constitutional amendment, backed by Republican state Senate leader Michael Roberson, would make it illegal for Nevada local governments to become “sanctuary communities” that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
It was challenged in a November suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which argued the petition’s language was overbroad and could mislead voters.
VICTORY! Carson City Judge rules “Prevent Sanctuary Cities” petition language is excessively broad and general and would confuse voters.
— ACLU of Nevada (@ACLUNV) January 5, 2018
District Court Judge James T. Russell agreed, issuing an order that blocks supporters from gathering the signatures needed to move the initiative forward.
Parts of the initiative, Russell said, didn’t inform the voters of anything, while other sections could mislead the voting public.
“In one part you’re saying ‘prevent sanctuary cities,’ in another part you’re saying ‘enforce federal immigration laws of the United States,’” Russell told attorneys for Prevent Sanctuary Cities, the political action committee behind the ballot push. “Again, I think it’s just excessively broad and the caption is misleading with respect to the body of the language of the initiative.”
As written, the measure would prohibit the state legislature, as well as counties and cities, from “enacting a law or ordinance, or otherwise adopting, enforcing or endorsing a policy which prohibits, limits or discourages” cooperation with enforcement of federal immigration laws.
Russell acknowledged his decision to reject that wording was “just a stop along the way” to a likely state Supreme Court showdown between supporters and opponents of the ballot effort.
If it winds up at the state’s highest court, attorneys for the ACLU like their chances.
“I think the Supreme Court will continue to make the same arguments — that this petition language is misleading,” said Amy Rose, ACLU Nevada’s legal director and the attorney who argued Friday’s case. “(The petition) is overly broad. It doesn’t inform the voters about the impact it will have and that’s what’s really important, is that voters understand what their signing.”
Roberson, R-Henderson, confirmed in a statement that he planned to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. He told the Reno Gazette Journal he would also look at revising the proposed ballot measure’s language with an eye toward clearing future court hurdles.
Reached before the hearing, Roberson dismissed the ACLU’s suit as a “stalling tactic” meant to run out the clock on initiative backers who have to file signatures supporting the measure by the end of June.
He remained equally defiant after the ruling.
“It’s good that Russell ruled today,” Roberson said, “because we’re up against the clock. So I’m disappointed, but this isn’t over.”
This week’s legal wrangling extends a long-running, nationwide feud over the role local authorities should play in enforcing federal immigration law.
Roberson, also a candidate for Nevada Lieutenant Governor, vehemently opposed a bill proposed during the 2017 Legislature that would have prevented state police agencies from carrying out immigration-related arrests and deportations. The Democrat-sponsored bill eventually foundered under a flood of opposition from Nevada law enforcement agencies.
If ultimately allowed to move ahead, the anti-sanctuary cities initiative would need signatures from 112,000 registered Nevada voters to qualify for next November’s ballot. It will have to pass muster with a majority of voters in 2018, and again in 2020, to become part of the state constitution.
Nevada is not currently home to any self-identified sanctuary communities.
MORE COVERAGE OF IMMIGRATION: ICE gave stay of removal to Reno man for him to address legal, personal matters
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