Nevada Judge Throws Out Anti-Sanctuary City Petition

Jan 8, 2018

Students rally in front of the State Legislative Building in favor of a bill that would have made Nevada a sanctuary state. That bill eventually died.
Credit Paul Boger / Reno Public Radio

A district court judge in Carson City has ruled a controversial ballot initiative aimed at banning sanctuary cities in Nevada too confusing to move onto a statewide vote. Reno Public Radio’s Paul Boger reports.

The initiative in question would have made it illegal for municipalities in Nevada to designate themselves as “sanctuary communities,” and cities and counties would have to work with federal immigration officials regardless of the situation.

But in a decision Friday, Judge James Russell ruled that the proposed constitutional amendment was excessively broad with potentially misleading wording.

It was a move that was hailed as a victory by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

“When you have anti-sanctuary city policies like this, people start to feel worried to talk to police because they start to see police as immigration enforcement,” says ACLU Legal Director Amy Rose. “So they won’t report crimes or they won’t become a witness to something because they’re afraid they’ll be taken away by I.C.E.”

The initiative was backed by Republican state Senator and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Michael Roberson of Las Vegas.

In a statement, Roberson expressed disappointment in the judge’s decision, but that he "had not yet begun to fight, and [that he] looked forward to presenting the case to the Nevada Supreme Court."

But some in the law enforcement community believe killing the initiative will ultimately help law enforcement.

Former Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley and ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Amy Rose discuss a judge's ruling to throw out a petition that would have let voters decide whether to make sanctuary cities in Nevada illegal.
Credit Paul Boger

“If an entire community shuts down because they’re going to be exposed or they believe they’re going to be exposed beyond their willingness to help you then it does no good for public safety,” says Former Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley. “It prevents public safety from protecting the very society that we’ve sworn to protect.”

Nevada does not currently have any self-identified sanctuary cities; however, Reno has identified itself as a "Welcoming city," meaning everyone will be treated equally under the law.