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May 24, 2019

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Las Vegas is home to 170,000 immigrants here illegally, Pew study shows

Illegal immigrants

Julie Jacobson / AP

Men stand in the parking lot of a hardware store waiting for contractors looking for day labor, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011, in Las Vegas. A report says an estimated 170,000 unauthorized immigrants reside in the Las Vegas Valley, based on 2014 population figures.

The number of unauthorized immigrants in Southern Nevada would form the fifth-largest largest city in the state, according to a Pew Research Center study published last week.

An estimated 170,000 unauthorized immigrants reside in the Las Vegas, Paradise and Henderson area, according to Pew researchers, who used 2014 population figures. Most of the United States’ 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants live in just 20 major metropolitan areas, the study found, with the largest populations in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. The Las Vegas area is 14th largest collection, with about the same number as San Diego.

Nationally, the percentage of undocumented immigrants compared to the total population is about 3.5 percent, the report said. In the Las Vegas area, that number is 8 percent, which is the second highest among major metropolitan areas behind only the Houston area.

About 35 percent of foreign-born Las Vegas area residents are here illegally, compared to the 25 percent national average, according to the study. Only the Phoenix, Houston, Dallas and Denver areas have a higher percentage than Las Vegas' (each with 2 percentage points higher).

The top 20 list of metro areas where the majority of the undocumented population in the country lives has been consistent the past two decades, according to the Pew study. Undocumented immigrants tend to gravitate to areas where other immigrants reside, the researchers concluded.

"Some of these areas could be affected by the (President) Trump administration's promise to take action against localities that do not cooperate with federal officials in identifying unauthorized immigrants," the Pew study states. Trump would do that by cutting funding for what he describes as sanctuary cities, he has said.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman recently said that the city jail complies with immigration authorities and that Las Vegas is not a sanctuary municipality, but that she's "passionate about finding a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants," according to a blog post.

The blog post further stated that officials haven't passed an ordinance or a resolution to deem Las Vegas a sanctuary.

Locally, law enforcement officers don't arrest people on the basis that they're undocumented, but they comply to a federal holding system.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who has also said Las Vegas is not a "sanctuary city," explained the local-federal collaboration process during an editorial meeting with the Las Vegas Sun in December.

When someone is arrested here, his or her name is run through federal databases, he said.

If the person comes up as being deportable, the agency contacts its federal counterparts and places an additional 48-hour retainer on the inmates after they're set to be released, to give the federal agents an opportunity to take custody of them.

Lombardo said that the federal agents rarely respond because of a lack of resources, adding that holding the inmates longer would be unlawful.

In December, Lombardo said he didn't anticipate his agency's practice to change and that it would continue to comply with the 48-hour retainer request from the federal agencies as long is its agents met the "letter of the law."