Assembly backs bill to help undocumented juveniles in Nevada obtain federal immigration relief

Updated March 14, 2017 - 5:39 pm

CARSON CITY — A bill that would help undocumented juveniles living in Nevada seek and obtain federal immigration relief won bipartisan support in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 142 would allow state district courts to make findings that a juvenile who came to the United States without documentation is entitled to seek immigration relief, or special status, under federal law.

In testimony on the bill earlier this session, it was explained that many minors come on their own to the United States because they have suffered hardships in their home countries. The bill would allow Nevada’s family courts to recognize these individual situations so the findings can be taken into account by federal immigration courts.

The vote on the bill was 38-4. The measure goes to the Senate for consideration.

Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, said the bill would require that if a state family court judge determines there is evidence to support a claim of special status, the court is required to issue an order detailing those findings.

Assemblyman Keith Pickard, R-Henderson, spoke in support of the bill, saying it is “intended to protect the most vulnerable among us, however they may have arrived in our country.”

Assemblyman Edgar Flores, D-Las Vegas, said the idea of the bill is simple. Federal law dictates the law regarding special immigrant juveniles. But it is up to the state to decide the issue of guardianship or custody, he said.

Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, said he supported the bill, but cautioned that the state needs to implement the process correctly.

“As we move forward with this kind of legislation, we need to be very mindful of just what a contentious issue this could be,” he said.

In testimony in support of the bill, Boyd Law School student Katherine Maher said the state family court is the only authority that will make an assessment about the best interest of the child. If the state court does not fulfill this role, a child who has been abused can be deported to face disastrous results, she said.

Contact Sean Whaley at or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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