ACLU: Nevada sanctuary initiative should be banned from ballot
May 8, 2018
Members of the Supreme Court were told on Tuesday the petition to constitutionally bar sanctuary cities in Nevada is overbroad and doesn't explain to voters what would actually happen if it passed.
But backers represented by Paul Georgeson told the justices the petition is valid because it embraces just a single subject — sanctuary cities.
District Judge Todd Russell threw out the petition and opponents led by Marc Elias said he was correct because the petition impacts "a body of ever changing federal law," that embraces subjects ranging from criminal law to asylum, rights to medical services, welfare, police powers and many others.
Justice Jim Hardesty pointed out the district court didn't analyze much about the Description of Effect, "because the district court said the Description of Effect did not describe any effects of the petition."
The Description of Effect is a 200-word preamble in lay language designed to tell petition signers what it would do.
Georgeson said the Legislative Counsel Bureau analysis didn't find any effect on state or local government at this point. He said the purpose of the petition is to prevent the state, counties and cities in Nevada from enacting any laws or ordinances that impede or discourage enforcement of federal immigration laws.
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"There might be downstream effects," he said, adding this isn't the time to review those.
Justice Ron Parraguirre questioned why the initiative was necessary since no Nevada county or city has passed a sanctuary cities ordinance.
Georgeson said other states and cities have.
Elias told the court the problem is voters will never know the extent of the impact the constitutional amendment would have. He said it's "an umbrella of a multitude of subjects."
He said the description of effect should point out cities and counties are giving up home rule if the initiative passes. He said it would involve laws that don't even have anything to do with immigration.
Hardesty asked whether the description of effect should tell voters "this implicates vast portions of the federal code." He asked whether the petition should be sent back to district court to fix the description of effect but Justice Michael Cherry pointed out that doesn't cure the "single subject" issue.
The high court took the case under submission.