Groups file challenge to Arizona-type immigration initiative

Two groups concerned with the local tourism industry filed a joint legal challenge Monday against an initiative to create an Arizona-type law cracking down on illegal immigrants, saying it could hurt an already stressed economy.

“We cannot afford to give people a reason to choose other cities for business or leisure travel,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The convention authority joined the Nevada Resort Association in filing the lawsuit against the initiative, launched this year by Assemblyman Chad Christensen, R-Las Vegas.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Nevada Open for Business Coalition each filed separate legal challenges to the initiative on Friday.

Christensen’s initiative mirrors a controversial Arizona law that makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally. The Arizona law, passed in April and set to take effect in late July, set off boycotts of the state. Supporters said it was necessary to protect Arizonans from crimes committed by illegal immigrants and filled a void left by a federal government that has failed to enforce immigration laws.

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

Opponents said the initiative is too broad and violates Nevada’s single-subject rule.

Christensen dismissed critics of the initiative on Friday, saying it deals with the single topic of citizenship and includes protections against racial profiling.

Christensen must collect 97,002 signatures by Nov. 9 to have the “Nevada Immigration Verification” initiative considered during the 2011 legislative session.

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