Nevada joins lawsuit challenging Obama’s action on immigration

Nevada has joined a lawsuit with more than two dozen states challenging President Barack Obama’s executive action that would protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Monday, saying the president is “undermining the rule of law.”

“Our immigration system is broken and clearly needs to be fixed,” Laxalt said in a statement. “But just as clearly, the solution is not for the president to act unilaterally disregarding the U.S. Constitution and laws. The solution must be a permanent, legal result that includes, not ignores, the other branches of government and their constitutional roles.

“Anything less is a false hope undermining the rule of law that injures millions of people in America, including many in Nevada,” Laxalt added.

Texas filed the original lawsuit after Obama in November expanded a program to shield from deportation immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. He also offered protection to undocumented immigrants who are relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents so families wouldn’t be separated.

The president said he took action because Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, although Obama waited until after the Nov. 4 election to avoid hurting Democrats at the ballot box.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid-D-Nev., defended Obama and criticized Laxalt for joining the lawsuit.

“This is embarrassing,” Reid said in a statement. “No other state in the country will benefit more from President Obama’s executive actions than Nevada. The irresponsible decision to join a lawsuit that will cause family separation is harmful to our communities.”

Reid said Obama “acted within his legal authority” by taking executive action and that every president dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower “has used his executive authority to make our immigration system more effective.”

“There is no question we need a permanent solution to fix our broken system,” Reid said. “I wish Republicans would focus their efforts on passing comprehensive legislation rather than baseless lawsuits that hurt Nevada families. ”

Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange also slammed both Laxalt and GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval for joining the lawsuit, saying they “have just sent a clear message to Nevada immigrants that appealing to the anti-immigrant, tea party wing of the Republican Party is more important to them than keeping families together.”

“If Brian Sandoval and Adam Laxalt had their way, thousands of Nevadans could face deportation and countless families would be at risk of being torn apart,” Lange said in a statement. “I urge Gov. Sandoval to insist Attorney General Laxalt withdraw from this partisan, irresponsible, and mean-spirited lawsuit that is nothing more than a slap in the face to Nevada’s immigrant community.”

But Laxalt said Obama should have worked on immigration with Congress, which has sole authority to enact laws.

“The president cannot bypass the peoples’ elected representatives in Congress just because they do not pass the laws he wants, nor can he simply rewrite current law under the guise of ‘prosecutorial discretion,’” Laxalt said.

Sandoval also has said the president shouldn’t have acted alone.

“Any solution to the greater problem must be a legislative solution, not a unilateral decision made by the executive branch,” Sandoval said. “This announcement gives false hope to the millions of people across America who will continue to wait for a permanent solution. It represents dreams delayed by patchwork progress and expediency over good government.”

On Monday, Sandoval’s spokeswoman said his position hasn’t changed and he wants Congress to work with the president, but he also suggested he didn’t think going to court was the answer.

“He continues to believe that the best course of action is a legislative solution rather than legal action,” said Mari St. Martin.

Laxalt, a Republican, won election in November, partly on a promise to challenge federal overreach.

About 145,000 undocumented people live in the Silver State, according to the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Some 53,000 of them are eligible for deferred action under Obama’s Nov. 20 executive actions, the group said, adding that if those immigrants got temporary work permits, it would lead to a $21 million increase in tax revenues over five years.

Obama, in announcing his executive action, used Astrid Silva, the organizing director of PLAN, as an example of an undocumented youth who is allowed to live and work here with her family under the actions he has taken.

“Adam Laxalt’s misguided and politically motivated attack on the president could affect thousands of families right here in Nevada,” Silva said in a statement. “The president acted with his full legal authority to set enforcement priorities and help keep families together. It is shameful that Laxalt would divert scarce resources from Nevada to pursue this political agenda and ensure that we maintain the status quo of a broken immigration system.”

Nevada became the 26th state to get involved in the lawsuit, which is pending in the Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas. In addition to Nevada and Texas, the states represented in the lawsuit include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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

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