Sanctuary cities may go to Nevada voters in future election

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada judge has given the green light to supporters of a ballot measure aimed at banning sanctuary cities to try to bring the question before the voters in a future election.

Carson City District Court Judge Todd Russell approved new language Wednesday describing the impact of the proposed constitutional amendment, which would make it illegal for Nevada cities and counties to become “sanctuary communities” that fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The Nevada Supreme Court had agreed with civil rights lawyers who argued the previous description was intentionally broad and confusing. The high court blocked it from the November ballot earlier this month, but sent the case back to Russell’s court for further review.

The initiative’s wording, first challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada last November, now warns voters that the measure “may significantly limit the power of local government to implement and carry out local priorities, policies and programs.”

The Reno Gazette Journal reports the measure’s chief sponsor, Republican Senate Leader Michael Roberson, admitted there’s not enough time to gather the more than 112,000 signatures necessary to get the initiative on the November ballot. But he says the ruling is an important step toward protecting the state “from dangerous criminals.”

“The ACLU has failed to defeat our initiative and we now look forward to obtaining the necessary signatures to place this initiative on the 2020 ballot. In the meantime, politicians of all stripes should be on notice that the people of Nevada will not tolerate sanctuary city policies coming out of Carson City or from our local governments,” Roberson said.

Nevada is not currently home to any self-identified sanctuary communities.

Holly Wellborn, ACLU of Nevada’s policy director, said the latest courtroom clash produced mixed results.

“Both sides weren’t totally happy with it,” Wellborn said. “We’re happy it’ll no longer be misleading to voters and that it makes the impact on local governments clearer to voters.”

If backers can gather enough signatures to get the measure on the 2020 ballot, it would have to pass with a majority of voters that year and again in 2022 to become part of the state constitution.