Editorial: Sanctuary city suit makes political, not legal case

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a lawsuit this past week in Carson City attempting to block the voters from having a say on an initiative petition that would amend the state Constitution to prohibit sanctuary cities in Nevada.

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story was quoted in a press release as saying, “This pointless, poorly crafted petition would only serve to alienate Nevada’s immigrant communities from local police officers and vital government services, making our communities more vulnerable to crime and overall worse off.”

Frankly, that is a political argument as to whether the voters should reject the amendment, not a legal argument for preventing the voters from voicing their opinions.

The petition filed with the Nevada Secretary of State in October is being advanced by the Prevent Sanctuary Cities Political Action Committee, which is headed up by Republican state Senate leader Michael Roberson.

The description of effect of the initiative reads, “If enacted, this measure will add a new section to the Nevada Constitution that will prohibit the legislature, a county or city from enacting a law or ordinance, or otherwise adopting, enforcing or endorsing a policy which prohibits or discourages cooperation with the enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States. To become effective this measure must be approved by a majority voters in two general elections.”

The press was not able to obtain a reaction from Roberson about the ACLU suit.

To put the measure on the 2018 ballot backers must obtain 112,544 signatures by June. It would need to be approved by a majority in 2018 and 2020 to become law.

The ACLU press release also quoted suit plaintiff Xiomara Rodriguez of the nonprofit Tu Casa Latina, “We know that this policy will endanger immigrant communities. We’ve already seen victims of workplace harassment or domestic violence refuse to call the police because they’re afraid of being torn away from their families. If local police become immigration agents, there’s a very real possibility these communities will face more abuse.”

Former Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley, also a plaintiff in the suit, was quoted as saying, “We know that compelling local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law is actually harmful to public safety. Police are less likely to receive valuable information or tips from communities that are terrified of facing possible deportation. It has the potential to increase crime and harm the entire community. Fundamentally this initiative undermines our ability to keep our communities safe.”

Again, political arguments not legal ones. Any other laws the police should ignore in order to endear themselves with certain communities?

During this past legislative session, Democrats tried to push legislation limiting the role of law enforcement in cooperating with immigration enforcement agencies. Roberson fought the efforts and the bill died.

The only legal argument the ACLU makes is that the petition is deceptive or misleading because it fails to provide any information about the effects of enactment. Perhaps that is because any such effort to do so would be wildly speculative and subject to being challenged by the likes of the ACLU no matter what was said.

The courts should shunt this attempt to prevent the voters from deciding this matter. Let the voters decide, one way or the other.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.