Nevada Sanctuary Bill Voted Out of Committee
FAIR Take | April 2021
Legislation to impose dangerous sanctuary policies statewide is advancing in Nevada. While similar bills have been previously introduced, this year’s version appears to have significant momentum as it moves out of committee toward a possible vote in the Assembly.
Assembly Bill (AB) 376 was introduced on March 22 by Assemblywoman Selena Torres (D-Las Vegas). Although its supporters have generally seemed wary of openly describing it as a sanctuary state bill, perhaps knowing that that terminology might not be popular in Nevada, even the Associated Press noted that it “mirrors “sanctuary state” policies in place in California, Colorado, Illinois and New York.” The bill would:
- Ban the use of any state or local resources or personnel for immigration enforcement;
- Prohibit honoring immigration detainers, which are legal requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold an illegal alien for up to 48 hours after release on local charges so the agency can pick them up and commence or resume the deportation process;
- Require a judicial warrant in order to honor an immigration detainer, although such warrants do not exist under federal law;
- Forbid law enforcement from inquiring about anyone’s immigration status or birthplace;
- Require state and local law enforcement to deny access to federal agencies to illegal aliens in their custody for interviews unless related to a specific crime;
- Forbid compliance with most requests for information or notification, such as release dates and times;
- Require the state’s Attorney General (AG) to develop model policies restricting access by immigration authorities to schools, hospitals and courthouses, which those entities must then adopt;
- Create a task force to recommend even more sanctuary policies.
In short, it would impose some of the most extreme sanctuary policies in the country, comparable to Washington State’s 2019 sanctuary law and even going significantly further than California. California’s sanctuary law allows (but doesn’t require) local jails to honor detainers for illegal aliens charged with or convicted of certain serious and violent felonies, and California’s sanctuary law doesn’t apply at all to its Department of Corrections, meaning convicted felons in state prison are still routinely transferred to ICE when they finish serving their sentences. Washington State has no such exceptions and neither does AB 376.
On April 7, there was an online public hearing on AB 376 by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs. The bill was strenuously opposed by law enforcement among others, including the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, all of whom indicated the bill posed a danger to public safety and to national security.
Assemblywoman Annie Black (R-Mesquite) “pointed to a news article about the arrest of two Yemeni men apprehended by the Border Patrol who had been on a terror watch list and asked if the bill would prevent local police from helping bring them into custody,” and further noted that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alexandro Mayorkas has said the federal government even under the Biden Administration would continue to actively oppose sanctuary policies.
Some members of the public stressed Nevada’s reliance on tourism and that making the state a sanctuary state would damage its reputation for safety and make tourists less likely to visit, while others noted it would act as a magnet for still further illegal immigration and strain the state’s already tight resources. FAIR staff also submitted written testimony opposing the bill.
Despite this, AB 376 passed the committee on a party-line vote of 8-5.
The bill has not yet been set for debate on the Assembly floor. If it is, it is extremely likely to be approved in a floor vote, as Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Assembly by 26-16. Additionally, no Democrat has spoken out in opposition or otherwise hinted they might vote against it. Under Nevada’s legislative rules and calendar, it must be voted out of the Assembly by April 20 or it will be “dead” for the rest of the session.
If it does pass the Assembly before the deadline, it will almost certainly be referred to a Senate committee since there is no Senate companion. If that occurs, the committee must consider it by May 14 and then it must receive a Senate floor vote by May 21. If it fails to meet those deadlines, it will die. It is likely to face a more difficult path in the more closely divided Senate since Democrats only have a three-person majority.
Governor Steve Sisolak (D) has not publicly weighed in on AB 376, so it is unclear whether he would sign it. In the past, he has portrayed himself as a pro-law enforcement moderate. In addition, he has made conflicting statements over whether he supports or opposes sanctuary policies. If he vetoes the bill, the legislature probably would not be able to override the veto since they lack two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers.
Nevadans need to let their lawmakers know right away that they oppose this dangerous bill.