Last month, the Trump administration swept aside several Obama-era deportation restrictions to ensure an expedited removal of millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. While the recent action has left thousands of immigrants in Nevada weary of their local law enforcement, a state senate bill introduced last week, S.B. 223, would limit state and local law enforcement agencies from performing specific actions relating to immigration enforcement.
In two memos released Feb. 22, from the Department of Homeland Security, the administration outlined the way U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be conducting immigration enforcement.
The memos said that Department personnel should prioritize deporting undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of any criminal offense, have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved, have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense.
The memo also specified that undocumented immigrants will be deported if they have committed fraud, or “willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency.” Immigrants who have abused the use of a program related to public benefits, have not complied with their legal obligation to leave the U.S., or have posed a risk to public safety or national security will also be prioritized for deportation.
SB 223, also known as The Family and Law Enforcement Security Act is sponsored by Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, and a number of other Democratic senators and Assembly members.
“There is a lack of clarity at the federal level as to just how much local law enforcement is going to have to take on immigration enforcement work and that worries me because what we have seen in Clark County is that crime rates have gone up and we have very precious resources [that]…we use to fund local law enforcement efforts,” Cancela said. “I think our law enforcement across the state does a tremendous job to keep our community safe and I want to make sure those resources are protected and not encroached upon by the federal government as it dictates the terms of immigration enforcement.”
Last Wednesday, Feb. 27, Cancela introduced the bill and referred it to the Committee on Judiciary. Following that Senate floor meeting, state Sen. Michael Roberson, a Republican from Henderson released a statement calling SB 223, “recklessly irresponsible” and “outrageous.”
“Senator Cancela has proposed legislation that will endanger the health and safety of all Nevadans. This “Sanctuary State” bill is, without question, the most recklessly irresponsible piece of legislation that I have witnessed during my six plus years in the Nevada Legislature,” Roberson said.
In response to the feedback, Cancela said that the climate created by the Trump administration has created misinformation when it comes to conversations on immigration enforcement.
Cancela also released a statement on Thursday, Feb. 28 following her introduction of the bill that specified that the bill would not change the legal repercussions criminals face after being arrested regardless of their immigration status.
Cancela’s statement said the bill would allow, “…local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE so long as authorities respect immigrants’ constitution rights.”
In interviews with The Nevada Independent, several law enforcement officials have said they want to reassure residents that they have nothing to fear in cooperating with police to solve crimes.
Officer Michael Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told the Nevada Independent that the officers are kept up to date with Trump’s immigration policies, but the immigrant community should know that the individuals prioritized for deportation are those who have committed crimes.
“The reality is that we have a dynamic and growing immigrant population throughout the state and they should not feel that local law enforcement is working to deport individuals and separate families,” Cancela said. “They should be able to trust that in the event of a situation where law enforcement is necessary be it a rape, a crime, that they too can rely on local police.”
Cancela said she hopes legislators in Carson City and the general public will understand that SB 223 is a measure to protect Nevada families and resources.