Judge throws out ballot initiative to prevent sanctuary cities

LAS VEGAS - Nevada voters may not have to decide on a proposed ban on so-called sanctuary cities. A District Court judge has thrown out a ballot initiative that would have made such designation unconstitutional.

The term "sanctuary cities" refers to jurisdictions that do not enforce federal immigration laws. However, there aren't any known sanctuary cities in the state of Nevada. The proposed ballot measure wants to make sure it stays that way, so proponents plan to file an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court.  

The ACLU believes initiative is misleading and "would confuse voters.

"It's basically a solution in search of a problem," said Tod Story, executive director, ACLU of Nevada. 

Last November, the organization filed a lawsuit against the political action committee behind the Prevent Sanctuary Cities Initiative.

"We think that they're mischaracterizing the nature of the initiative itself," said Story.

The ACLU argues the language on the proposed constitutional amendment is overly broad.

It says the legislature, county commission, and cities "shall not enact an ordinance or otherwise adopt, enforce, or endorse a policy which prohibits, limits, or discourages cooperation with the enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States."

"They were trying this very broad language approach with federal immigration law which is millions of words and so no voter is going to know what part of the immigration law this was even going to have an affect on," Story said.

The ACLU also challenged the language in the petition voters were being asked to sign, describing it as "insufficient."

"I think people pretty much understand exactly what the issue is," said Chuck Muth, the president of Citizen Outreach, a grassroots conservative advocacy group that supports the initiative.

Honorary Prevent Sanctuary Cities PAC Chairman Republican Senate Leader Michael Roberson released the following statement: 

“We are clearly disappointed with the ruling and believe it was wrong.  In 2017, Nevada Democrats proposed the most reckless legislation in Nevada history which would have turned Nevada into a Sanctuary State. Nevada voters have a right to prevent this from happening. California has now become a Sanctuary State, and if politicians like Jacky Rosen, Chris Giunchigliani, Kate Marshall, and Aaron Ford have their say, Nevada will be next.  Rest assured, I have not yet begun to fight, and I look forward to presenting our case at the Nevada Supreme Court.” – Honorary Prevent Sanctuary Cities PAC Chairman Republican Senate Leader Michael Roberson

"We've had a problem with in the state for a long time," Muth said. "It's this whole idea that citizens who try to put an issue on the ballot almost always have them struck down by the courts before they ever get a chance to vote on it." 

The ACLU says it's keeping an eye on the PAC's next move.

"The proponents again will have to either appeal to the supreme court or have to start from scratch if they chose to pursue this any further," Story said.

Any signatures that have already been collected are no longer valid.  If proponents move forward with a new version of the initiative, they will have to collect 112,000 new signatures by June.

A constitutional amendment also requires voter approval during two election cycles.    
 


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