Guy W. Farmer: Immigration, Yucca: Hot-button issues at debate | NevadaAppeal.com

Guy W. Farmer: Immigration, Yucca: Hot-button issues at debate

Guy W. Farmer

Two contentious issues took center stage at a recent Reno debate among Nevada Republican candidates for governor and U.S. senator: immigration reform and the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

Gov. Jim Gibbons and two contenders discussed “comprehensive immigration reform,” which would grant conditional amnesty to more than 10 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., including 250,000 in Nevada. Although all three candidates applauded Arizona’s tough new law permitting state authorities to crack down on illegal immigration, Gibbons said later that Nevada doesn’t need such a law because it’s not a border state.

Gibbons said Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer had to sign the new state law because the federal government has “failed miserably” on border enforcement. That’s true and it’s a major reason why so many of us oppose comprehensive immigration reform, which is supported by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., among others.

When she signed the law that makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona, Brewer was carrying out the wishes of a huge majority of her state’s voters and their elected representatives. A Rasmussen Poll revealed that 70 percent of Arizona voters support the new legislation.

Should Gov. Brewer and other Arizona politicians worry about a harsh backlash from Hispanic voters? Perhaps, but although nearly 30 percent of Arizona residents are Latinos, they account for only 12 percent of the total vote. Those percentages are probably somewhat similar in Nevada.

While I liked Gov. Gibbons’ comments on illegal immigration, I was disappointed when he decided to dance around the Yucca Mountain issue. After opposing the nuclear waste dump for several years, he suddenly reversed course and said the toxic dump might be a good idea after all – “a nuclear center of excellence,” in his words. But I think he was clearly pandering to an audience of ultra-conservative Republicans who favor the dump.

Although he was booed by that same audience, former Attorney General and Federal Judge Brian Sandoval, who leads Gibbons in the gubernatorial race, reiterated his opposition to the waste dump, which he opposed as attorney general. His views are shared by a majority of Nevadans who don’t want to see our state become the nation’s nuclear dumping ground. Let the states that generate the waste dispose of it.

In a spirited Senate debate, front-runner Sue Lowden clashed with several rivals on the issue of congressional “earmarks” that bring federal tax dollars to Nevada. She favored the earmarks while rival Danny Tarkanian argued that we should minimize federal involvement in our state.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, urges everyone to vote in the June 8 primary.