Immigration reform petition filed in Nevada |

Immigration reform petition filed in Nevada

Associated Press Writer

A conservative assemblyman and long-shot U.S. Senate hopeful filed an initiative petition Friday that would establish in Nevada tough new immigration laws similar to Arizona’s and require photo identification to vote.

Republican Chad Christensen, who has supported restricting services to undocumented immigrants in past legislative sessions, said Nevada is “on the edge.”

He estimated illegal immigrants cost the state more than $700 million a year in education, health care and incarceration expenses.

He’s one of 12 Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate nomination in the June 8 primary.

Petition backers must collect 97,002 valid signatures by Nov. 9 to send the initiative to the 2011 Legislature. If lawmakers reject it or fail to act, it would be put to voters in 2012.

The Arizona law that has spurred protests and boycotts around the nation requires that police conducting traffic stops or questioning people about possible legal violations ask them about their immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they’re in the country illegally.

Christensen said his initiative is not about race or politics. “This is an issue between Americans and non-Americans,” he said.

Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, said Christensen’s petition was an attempt to bring attention to his flailing U.S. Senate race.

“Chad Christensen is gasping for air, as far as his candidacy, and that’s the only thing he can come up with,” Romero said.

Romero said his group and others will work to defeat the proposal.

Support for the Arizona law by Nevada Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval, the first Hispanic to win statewide election in Nevada as attorney general in 2002, cost him an endorsement from Hispanics in Politics.

Besides toughening immigration enforcement, the Nevada initiative would also require photo identification to vote, something that has been rejected by state lawmakers in the past.

Ron Futrell, Christensen’s campaign communication director, said the Nevada proposal mirrors Indiana’s voter ID law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008.

“If there’s no identification check along the way, you don’t know if there’s a problem or not” with voter fraud, Futrell said.

He called the proposal a “pre-emptive” move “to make sure people are here legally and have authorized ID in order to vote.”