Nevada AG responds to congresswoman’s slam on immigration suit

CARSON CITY — Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt on Wednesday defended his decision to join a legal challenge of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration in a reply to U.S. Rep. Dina Titus’ harsh criticism of him when he testified before Congress on the matter.

Laxalt said Nevada joined 25 other states in the lawsuit because the president violated both the separation of powers doctrine by going around Congress and the “rule of law.” The lawsuit argues Obama lacks legal authority to change immigration law enforcement, and it’s up to Congress to pass and change laws.

“The president’s action encroaches on the prerogatives of the legislative branch, and moves far beyond any executive power contemplated by the framers” of the U.S. Constitution, Laxalt wrote in his eight-page letter, which included a copy of his congressional testimony. “If any president — Republican or Democrat — can act in this manner, there is no limit to the executive’s power to change the law by fiat.”

“This lawsuit is about the rule of law and not about politics,” Laxalt added.

Obama’s Nov. 20 executive order protects from deportation up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, mostly family members of U.S. citizens and young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. when they were little and grew up here. The president in 2012 took executive action to protect those so-called DREAMers from deportation, allowing them to get work permits, to drive and to study in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

Obama said he acted because Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The GOP-led House has not acted on a bill the U.S. Senate passed more than a year ago, providing a path to U.S. citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living here illegally now.

Laxalt, a Republican elected on Nov. 4, campaigned on a promise to challenge the federal government when it overreaches. But he has faced a backlash from some Nevada leaders for joining the lawsuit.

Laxalt didn’t discuss the lawsuit with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval before joining it, prompting the governor to urge him to consult on such matters ahead of time in the future. Sandoval said he didn’t agree with Nevada joining the lawsuit and believes the best solution is legislative action on immigration.

Laxalt’s staff did inform Sandoval’s staff before Nevada joined the lawsuit, however. And the attorney general told Congress that he, too, believes that a legislative solution is best. The lawsuit, in fact, could force lawmakers’ hand to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

Titus, in a Feb. 25 letter hand-delivered the day Laxalt testified before the House Judiciary Committee, said she was “concerned that you signed Nevada onto a frivolous lawsuit.”

Titus, D-Nev., also asked Laxalt to provide prove his statement to Congress that Obama’s actions on immigration are causing states economic hardship. She said the administration expects an economic benefit from bringing immigrants into the legal workforce, cutting the federal deficit by $25 billion over 10 years.

GDP would grow from $90 billion to $210 billion if undocumented workers were allowed to come out of the shadows, Titus said in rebuking Laxalt for spending time on the lawsuit.

“I urge you to refocus your efforts as Nevada’s Attorney General to more critical matters that are facing Nevadans, like protecting victims of domestic violence and child trafficking, and defending the state’s interests when it comes to stopping Yucca Mountain,” Titus wrote.

Laxalt, in his letter, said a judge who issued an opinion in the case had mentioned potential economic hardships to the states because of illegal immigration. But he said that if Titus is correct and the government stands to gain by legalizing immigrants, than Congress has more reason to work with he president to come up with a comprehensive immigrant plan.

“As a Congresswoman, I am sure you would agree that even good ideas must be implemented lawfully,” Laxalt wrote.

Laxalt also said his office has not incurred any extra costs by joining the lawsuit because Texas is taking the lead.

He assured Titus his 400-plus employees do focus on protecting Nevadans in crime prevention, consumer protection, domestic violence, human trafficking and in “defending Nevada’s interest in stopping the Yucca Mountain project.”

He noted that in his first month in office he has held a law enforcement summit with sheriffs and district attorneys and launched a program to provide free legal services to military members and veterans.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj

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