CARSON CITY – Nevada does not need an Arizona-type immigration law to control illegal immigration, Gov. Brian Sandoval said Monday.
“I never thought a similar law was needed in Nevada,” said Sandoval, who nonetheless said he supported Arizona’s constitutional right to pass such a law.
Nevada has 183,000 illegal immigrants, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It had been estimated at 280,000 in 2008.
Sandoval said he does not know yet whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision tossing out much of the Arizona immigration law will have any effect on Nevada. The court upheld the controversial section of the Arizona law that allows police, if they stop a driver for a traffic violation, to ask for documentation of anyone who they suspect of being in the country illegally.
Rene Cantu Jr., executive director of the Latin Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation in Las Vegas, said the decision doesn’t affect Nevada at all because the state has never enacted such a law.
“The effect on us is nonexistent,” he said.
But it may have a positive result on Nevada, the state with the highest unemployment rate, becaise some people in the country illegally might decide they can return to Arizona after the decision, Cantu saod.
Cantu said the purpose of the Arizona law was to induce people to move away, either back to Mexico or other countries or to states such as Nevada.
Dane S. Claussen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said “show me your papers” laws condone racial profiling, undermine effective law enforcement and have no place in Nevada values.
“Nevada is not Arizona, and we will continue to forge our own path,” he said.
In Washington, D.C., Nevada Democrats offered contrasting views to Nevada Republicans on the decision.
Democratic Sen. Harry Reid said he was troubled that the “show your papers” provision was allowed to stand.
“Allowing Arizona to keep its ‘papers please’ system of immigration checks invites racial profiling,” Reid said in a Senate speech. “And it gives Arizona officials free rein to detain anyone they suspect of being in the state without documentation.”
“As long as this provision remains, innocent American citizens are in danger of being detained by police unless they carry immigration papers with them at all times,” he added.
Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who had supported the Arizona law, did not comment directly on the Supreme Court’s ruling.
A statement from Heller’s press spokesman reflected the view expressed widely by Republicans that the Arizona law would not have been necessary if the federal government had tightened immigration enforcement.
“States are frustrated with the federal government’s reluctance to enforce existing laws,” Heller spokesman Stewart Bybee said.
Appearing on the Nevada Newsmakers program in March 2011, Heller, who then was a U.S. House member, said he had spoken to counterparts from Arizona about that state’s actions.
“I think we need a similar policy here in the state of Nevada,” Heller said. “I am surprised that this (Nevada) Legislature is not talking more about immigration reform given the size of the debt that we have.”
Heller said that he supported legal immigration but that Nevada’s record high unemployment required closer policing for illegal workers.
“I don’t think that’s out of bounds that legal residents here in the state should have first refusal of a job at 14.2 (now 11.6 percent) percent unemployment,” he said at the time.
Republican Rep. Joe Heck said states like Arizona attempting to crack down on illegal immigration “are understandably frustrated with the (Obama) administration’s selective enforcement of federal law and Washington’s inability to address the issue long term.
“The most important things we can do on the topic of immigration in this country are securing the borders, uniformly enforcing the laws already on the books, and fixing a broken legal immigration process,” Heck said.
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