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‘Sanctuary state’ bill puts Nevadans at risk

Forget sanctuary city. Some Nevada politicians want to make Nevada a sanctuary state.

That’s what Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, has proposed in SB223, which would make it illegal for state and local law enforcement officers to help or even share information with federal immigration officials except in the narrowest of circumstances.

It’s not like Nevada is aggressive about immigration enforcement right now. If someone reports a crime, the Metropolitan Police Department doesn’t ask about immigration status. Metro doesn’t conduct immigration raids. It’s not until someone is booked into jail that Metro starts working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify whether a person is here illegally.

Metro and ICE have a Memorandum of Agreement that governs the process. It allows Metro officers to receive ICE training and gives them authority to perform certain functions as an immigration officer. The key is sharing information with ICE databases. Without that, ICE doesn’t know whether an illegal immigrant is in jail or when he’ll be released — necessary information to decide if it wants to start deportation proceedings.

If ICE chooses to deport someone, it reimburses local governments for using their facilities to hold illegal immigrants. At a February meeting of Assembly Government Affairs, Henderson City Manager Robert Murnane said the city received about $10 million last year for housing ICE and Clark County detainees. A Henderson official said the jail holds an average of around 200 illegal immigrants a day, although not all are from Nevada.

SB223 would bar all state and local law enforcement officers from collecting information about immigration status, performing any function of an immigration officer and holding criminals when asked to do so by federal officials, unless ICE already has a federal warrant. ICE must have encountered the criminal previously for this to apply.

In a news release defending her proposal, Cancela said someone arrested for a violent crime would be “subject to the legal repercussions of their actions.” But by preventing ICE from learning that Metro has booked an illegal immigrant into jail, SB223 would prevent a current legal consequence: deportation. If SB223 passes, it’s unlikely ICE would ever find out that Nevada law enforcement had a violent, criminal illegal immigrant in custody. Denying ICE the information needed to deport violent criminals means more violent criminals would end up in Nevada jails and on Nevada’s streets.

Metro’s current policy is already a compromise: “Don’t ask about legal status until someone is booked into jail.”

Under SB223, the policy would be: “Don’t ever ask. Don’t ever tell. If ICE asks, tell them go to …”

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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