Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2015

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Nevada assemblyman plans to resurrect immigration legislation after ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law prompted at least one Republican lawmaker to renew his effort to see similar legislation passed in Nevada.

In response to the opinion handed down by the court, Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, asked legislative bill drafters Monday to rewrite his measure that failed last session.

Hansen said this time, the proposed law will have the advantage of having the constitutional boundaries established by the Supreme Court. But Hansen is under no illusions he’ll be more successful.

“It’s a longshot,” he said.

And not necessarily because of the reasons you’d think.

The biggest opposition to Hansen’s bill last time, he said, didn’t come from immigration activists or the sizeable number of Hispanic lawmakers in Nevada’s Legislature.

“It was the casinos and the bigger contractors,” he said.

Nevada has boomed over the past decade as a place where those without a traditional education could still obtain a robust middle-class lifestyle.

That opportunity helped draw a sizeable Hispanic population — a percentage of whom are here illegally.

According to Department of Homeland Security estimates from 2010 — the most recent available — 260,000 Nevadans were “unauthorized immigrants,” a little less than 10 percent of the state’s population.

Hansen’s bill isn’t the only time Nevada’s powerful industries opposed an effort to institute an Arizona-type immigration law here.

During the heat of the 2010 U.S. Senate Republican primary, former Assemblyman Chad Christensen, R-Las Vegas, filed an initiative petition to put an Arizona law in front of Nevada voters. The state’s gaming lobby quickly stepped up to oppose the effort, including the Nevada Resort Association and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The industry argued such a law could lead to a tourism boycott of Nevada.

But the industry’s workforce is also heavily Hispanic, individuals who could be subjected to the racial profiling that opponents of Arizona’s law say it engenders.

Hansen said he contacted legislative staff on Monday after the Supreme Court ruling to have them draft the portions of his bill from last session, Assembly Bill 430, that would pass constitutional muster. He plans to introduce it during the 2013 Legislative session.

Hansen said he campaigned on cracking down on illegal immigration in 2010 when he first ran for office.

AB 430 received a committee hearing in the 2011 Legislature but no vote. He attributes that not only to the Democratic leadership in the Assembly but also opposition from Nevada’s biggest industries.

“It’s cheap labor, bottom line,” said Hansen, who owns a plumbing company. “In a casino, they’re trying to (staff) up. If you go on a residential construction site, finding an English-speaking guy is pretty rare. They’re trying to do it at the lowest prices possible.”

He was unconcerned with fears of racial profiling, comparing it to police initially looking at males at a crime scene because they commit the bulk of the crimes.

“The bulk of people here illegally are coming from south of the border,” he said. “The bulk of illegals are from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, somewhere down there. It’s the same as looking for males at a bank robbery. It’s a perfectly rational way of looking at it. It’s not profiling.”

But any piece of that proposal is likely to draw significant opposition.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has said Nevada doesn’t need an Arizona-style law, though he had said he believed it to be constitutional before Monday’s ruling.

Resurrecting a portion of the Arizona immigration bill “is a bad idea,” said Maggie McLetchie, who at the time of Christensen’s proposal was an attorney with the ACLU of Nevada, which challenged his petition. “The fact that so many people acted so quickly to oppose it, and it was so coordinated, shows not only that there are constitutional concerns, but it’s also bad business for Nevada.”

In addition to the business opposition, Democrats, who are expected to maintain control of the Assembly, aren’t likely to take up Hansen’s mantle.

“Everyone from the governor on down has been pretty clear that something like that is not appropriate for the state of Nevada,” said Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas. “I certainly wouldn’t advocate for anything allowing for the racial profiling of people. I would advocate against this if (Hansen) were to try to submit it again — the same way I advocated against it last time.”

Anjeanette Damon contributed to this report.

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