Newspaper column: Nevada needs a law allowing police to cooperate with ICE

A ruling by a federal judge in California has put law enforcement agencies in Nevada and much of the nation in legal jeopardy if they hold prisoners, who are in the country illegally, for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for potential deportation.

The ruling by Central California U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birrote Jr. in September held that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unwarranted search and seizure to hold a prisoner until an ICE agent is available to take that prisoner into custody — unless the detention is expressly authorized by state law.

Judge Birrote wrote, “A fundamental tenet of federalism requires states to determine the powers and responsibilities of their own officers and any attempt to subvert states’ control over their law enforcement runs afoul of the Tenth Amendment. … Thus, even where federal law permits state or local officers to make civil immigration arrests, the authority for such arrests must come from state law.”

Though Arizona and a few other states have such laws, Nevada does not.

As a result, a couple of weeks ago the head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which covers the jurisdictions of Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County, announced his agency was suspending its formal agreement with ICE — called a 287(g) program — to detain prisoners for pickup by the federal agency. The sheriffs in Nye and Lyon counties also have 287(g) agreements but they have not said what their plans are yet. Other jurisdictions may not have formal agreements but may still cooperate with ICE.

In announcing the change in policy, Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo said his agency will “continue to work with ICE at the Clark County Detention Center in removing persons without legal status who have committed violent crimes,” according to The Nevada Independent.

ICE’s deputy field office director in Las Vegas, Dana L. Fishburn, issued a statement saying, “Clark County’s decision to suspend its 287(g) program will only benefit criminals. Recent California legislation regarding detainers is irrelevant, and is an excuse to justify a decision that will impact the safety of our communities here in Nevada.”

The potential threat to local enforcement agencies who cooperate with ICE was spelled out in a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California at the time of the ruling. It quoted Ruben Loyo, senior litigation attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center as saying, “For over a decade now ICE has been systematically violating the Fourth Amendment rights of hundreds of thousands of individuals each year through its detainers. This ruling should be yet another reminder to law enforcement that if you comply with detainers you too will be held liable.”

ICE Acting Director Matt Albence warned that the ruling will endanger the public and called it “judicial overreach.” According to Fox News, in the past year ICE deported more than 145,000 illegal immigrants, of those approximately 70 percent occurred through detainer requests made to state and local jails and prisons.

“This conclusion is out of step with the realities of modern law enforcement, endangers the public and construes probable cause in an unfairly restrictive way,” Albence said. “Moreover, this decision, issued by a single judge in Los Angeles will impact at least 43 states, threatening communities far beyond the one in which this judge sits.”

Meanwhile, in Arizona it is business as usual. State law allows county sheriffs “the authority to develop their own protocol consistent with the law,” Ryan Anderson, a spokesman with the Arizona attorney general’s office, told Cronkite News, adding that the law bars detention of people for “longer than necessary” on suspicion of being here illegally. This gives local law enforcement discretion, but one Arizona sheriff said he would hold those in the country illegally for immigration agents only if they are picked up immediately.

Lest some Nevada sheriff or police chief gets dragged into court for holding a potentially dangerous illegal immigrant an extra 20 minutes while waiting for an ICE agent, Gov. Steve Sisolak should call the Legislature into special session to quickly pass a law similar to the one in Arizona.

While we’ll not hold our breaths waiting for the Democratic governor or the Democratic majorities of both chambers of the Legislature to act on behalf of public safety over the convenience of illegal immigrants, it would be the right thing to do.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo (AP file pix)

What might have been

As bad as it was, as unthinkable as it was — 58 killed and nearly 500 injured when a 64-year-old man opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel tower into 22,000 attendees at an outdoor concert — it is frightening to contemplate what might have been.

In all the thousands of words trying to capture the enormity of the Sunday night massacre, these buried in a story from today’s paper must give one pause: Clark County Sheriff Joe “Lombardo said he saw evidence Paddock planned to survive his massacre, but refused to elaborate.”

This followed a tally of weaponry and explosives that the gunman had not yet used: ammonium nitrate, 50 pounds of the explosive Tannerite and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in Paddock’s car, as well as 18 30-round magazines of .308 ammunition and 15 40-round magazines of .223 ammunition — that police speculated were for additional violence had he escaped the hotel room.

Instead, as police closed in, the gunman reportedly used his last shot to kill himself.

The bullet holes in the nearby jet fuel tanks give hints as to man’s depravity and intentions.

People keep trying to “understand” what motivated such a vile act of madness. Understanding it would itself be a symptom of madness.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R-J pix)