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Law enforcement opposition will kill ‘sanctuary state’ bill

CARSON CITY — SB223, the “sanctuary state” bill from Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, is going to die. There’s no need to look for a suspect. Nevada law enforcement is killing it right now. And we’re all safer for it.

Lobbyists with the Metropolitan Police Department and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office told me they are going to oppose the bill publicly, because it would make Nevadans less safe by releasing criminals who should be deported, eroding relationships with federal law enforcement and costing their departments more than $12 million a year in lost grants.

To understand how extreme Cancela’s bill is, you need to know how lax Nevada’s current policy is when it comes to illegal immigration. You could walk up and down the Vegas Strip in a shirt proclaiming that you’re here illegally, and Metro officers wouldn’t give you a second look.

“We get 3 million 911 calls a year,” said Chuck Callaway, director of intergovernmental services for Metro. “We don’t have time to run around and look for illegal immigrants. But by the same token, if somebody is booked into the detention center, because they’ve committed a crime, we feel it’s in the best interest of public safety to vet that person and, if they are a priority for deportation, to make that notification to ICE.”

Metro books 50,000 people a year. It notifies Immigration and Customs Enforcement 1,500 times a year that a criminal is an undocumented immigrant. ICE comes and picks up just 170 of them a year. Metro won’t even hold someone for ICE unless they receive written probable cause, and ICE gets them within 48 hours.


Those 170 undocumented immigrants are the ones Cancela wants to remain in Nevada by preventing local law enforcement agencies from telling ICE they’re in custody. That’s bad enough, but it gets worse. SB223 would sever relationships with federal agencies that help solve local crimes.

“We have different components [integrated with agencies like the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshalls] that work and share information,” said Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Corey Solferino. “It’s kind of how we catch criminals.”

“Once we start eroding those federal partnerships, the rest of them go away,” said Lt. Eric Spratley with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

Cancela’s bill has a financial cost, too. Metro estimates it would lose $9 million in grants, and Washoe says it would lose $3 million in grants — each year.

Even if Democrats decide they want to push through a bill that would release dangerous criminals and make it harder for police to solve crimes, law enforcement’s opposition gives Gov. Brian Sandoval plenty of reasons to veto.

“I don’t believe we can ever support what she’s trying to do,” said Callaway.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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