Las Vegas Sun

July 15, 2019

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Judge rejects proposed petition to ban sanctuary cities

CARSON CITY — A District Court judge ruled today that a proposed petition to ban the establishment of so-called sanctuary cities in Nevada was confusing and not valid.

Judge Todd Russell ruled the petition to amend the Nevada Constitution didn’t inform voters of what it would do.

He predicted, however, the issue would end up with the Nevada Supreme Court. “We’re just a step on the way to the Supreme Court,” he said after 90 minutes of arguments.

The ruling was a victory for the ACLU of Nevada and a defeat for state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who authored the proposed amendment.

Roberson’s proposal called for a constitutional amendment to prohibit state and local governments from enacting laws creating sanctuary cities that would prohibit local police from helping federal agents enforce immigration laws.

Amy Rose, legal director for ACLU, argued the petition was legally deficient because it covered a host of immigration laws, violating the requirement that ballot initiatives be limited to a single matter. She said enactment of the petition could affect schools, hospitals and social services.

“Pre-election intervention is warranted,” she told the judge, noting that voters would not understand the impact of the plan, which could also place a financial burden on local governments.

Paul Georgeson, an attorney representing Roberson, said the 133-word petition was “straightforward and not misleading.”

Before the hearing, Roberson said his group has not collected any of the estimated 112,000 signatures that would need to be collected by June 19 to get the matter on the ballot. He accused the ACLU of using a delaying tactic to stop the voters from deciding the issue.

The petition, if it qualifies, would have to be approved by voters this year and in 2020 to amend the constitution.