Although a favorable ruling from the high court in the Arizona immigration case could embolden efforts to tighten Nevada’s laws, success is unlikely.
“I don’t know if there’s an appetite in the Legislature to do anything like Arizona did,” said Robert Uithoven, a Republican strategist. “Any kind of immigration reform the Republicans want to push would have a tough time.”
The Supreme Court justices hinted during arguments this week that they may allow Arizona to enforce its requirement that police officers check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.
Sandoval “supports Arizona’s right to respond and adopt laws to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens,” Mary-Sarah Kinner, the governor’s press secretary, said in an email.
And while he “supports some of the provisions that the Supreme Court discussed this week,” Kinner said the governor “has heard from law enforcement officials across Nevada who believe they don’t need a new law here.”
State Sen. Mo Denis, leader of the Democratic caucus, said he doesn’t expect it to be an issue during the 2013 legislative session.
“Those types of laws try to discriminate against people,” he said. “When you’re a tourism-based economy, you want everyone to come here and not feel discriminated against.”
Because Democrats maintain control of at least one chamber, Republican-backed immigration bills are essentially dead on arrival.
“It’s truly a waste of time,” Denis said.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, introduced a bill in the 2011 Legislature that mirrored the Arizona law but that legislation died without fanfare in the Assembly and Senate, both controlled by Democrats.
The control of the Senate is very much in play going into the November elections. But unless Republicans take command of the Assembly in 2013 — an unlikely scenario — Hansen said any effort to revive the issue would meet a similar fate as last year.
“There will absolutely be some momentum” if the Supreme Court upholds key components of Arizona’s immigration enforcement measures, said Hansen, who is running unopposed for re-election in November.
“Whether it’s enough to overcome the inertia in the Legislature is another question.”
Immigration laws were a hot campaign issue in 2010 after the Arizona law passed. The support of many Republicans spurred rallied in opposition and Democrats tried to take advantage with voter registration drives targeting Latinos.
Hansen thinks there is strong public support for tighter immigration laws in Nevada, and said a ballot measure may be the only way to enact it.
“If you can put it on the ballot, I think it would pass overwhelmingly,” he said.
Chad Christensen, a former state Assemblyman who lost to Sharron Angle in Nevada’s crowded Republican U.S. Senate primary, tried that approach two years ago but had to abandon the effort after a series of legal challenges forced delays that made it impossible to meet a signature deadline.
The issue so far this year hasn’t generated that kind of intensity, though Fernando Romero of Hispanics in Politics said there remains a lot of angst among Latino communities who want resolution to the immigration reform debate.
“It doesn’t get any better with time,” Romero. “It’s not like wine that gets better with time. It’s like vinegar. It gets bitter.”
While the issue unites the Hispanic community, Romero is saddened by the drawn out controversy.
“Why should we expend so much time and energy speaking about something that is so vile?” he said.
Supreme Court approval of the Arizona law, Romero fears, is going to be a divisive issue.
“It’s something we don’t need in this country,” he said.