Complaint filed in immigration petition case

CARSON CITY — A complaint has been filed against the man behind a petition that would ask Nevadans whether they want an immigration law like Arizona’s, which is being challenged by the federal government.

The secretary of state’s office said the complaint was filed Tuesday by the Jones Vargas law firm against Assemblyman Chad Christensen, R-Las Vegas, on the grounds that he does not have a valid address to reach him and his petition advocacy group.

Christensen named himself resident agent for the petition group, giving his U.S. Senate campaign office address for the ballot initiative. He lost the Republican primary, and his legislative term will end this year.

It is not known whether Christensen is actually circulating his petition. He must secure more than 97,000 valid signatures on his petition by Nov. 9 to advance the proposal. If he does, then the Legislature would decide next year whether to adopt the Arizona law. If the Legislature does not adopt the law, the matter would go before voters in 2012.

In addition to requiring noncitizens to carry proof that they are in the United States legally, the initiative would allow legal residents to sue if they feel a government agency adopts a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

It also would prohibit illegal immigrants from applying for a job, make it illegal to transport or harbor illegal immigrants, and require voters to present IDs at the polls, a provision opponents say would disenfranchise voters.

Christensen did not return repeated calls for comment Tuesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Christensen’s petition. Because he does not have a valid address, the organization cannot serve legal papers for the lawsuit to proceed, said Maggie McLetchie, an ACLU lawyer.

“We cannot go forward until we serve him. They obviously know what we are doing. They are trying to evade service. They aren’t following the rules of petitioning.”

The ACLU opposes the Arizona law on the grounds that the power of enforcing immigration laws rests with the federal government.

“The Arizona law focuses on everyone and everybody, not just illegal immigrants, but legal residents and visitors,” McLetchie said.

Daniel Burns, spokesman for Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, called the Obama administration’s lawsuit against the Arizona law “a waste of time and money.”

“Why don’t they just secure the border?” asked Burns, noting that Gibbons is on vacation and not available for comment. “The president never does the logical thing.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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