The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and Perkins Coie LLP today filed a lawsuit in the First Judicial District Court challenging State Sen. Michael Roberson’s anti-immigrant ballot initiative.

The entire “Prevent Sanctuary Cities Initiative” - from the language of the proposed amendment, to the description of effect - is misleading to voters. Even the term “sanctuary cities” is deceptive, pejorative, and lacks a legal definition.

Our clients in this case include a former Nevada sheriff, a civil rights activist, and a nonprofit organization that works with immigrant victims of crime, including domestic violence.

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story said:

“Nevada’s police departments and state and local governments have proven again and again that they are complying with all federal requirements relating to immigration law. This pointless, poorly crafted petition would only serve to alienate Nevada’s immigrant communities from local police officers and vital government services, making our communities more vulnerable to crime and overall worse off.”

Former Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley, a plaintiff in the suit, said:

“We know that compelling local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law is actually harmful to public safety. Police are less likely to receive valuable information or tips from communities that are terrified of facing possible deportation. It has the potential to increase crime and harm the entire community.  Fundamentally this initiative undermines our ability to keep our communities safe.”

Xiomara Rodriguez of the nonprofit Tu Casa Latina, also a plaintiff in the suit, said:

"We know that this policy will endanger immigrant communities. We've already seen victims of workplace harassment or domestic violence refuse to call the police because they're afraid of being torn away from their families. If local police become immigration agents, there’s a very real possibility these communities will face more abuse."

Marc Elias, attorney for Perkins Coie LLP, said:

"This initiative, if approved, would significantly undermine the public safety of the people of Nevada.  Among its many defects, it does not sufficiently describe the effect it would have on people in the state, willfully ignoring the actual impact on the immigrant community and the financial costs the state would incur in implementing the initiative.

Initiative supporters must gather 112,000 signatures by June 19, in order for the proposal to get on the November 2018 ballot. To become effective, the majority of voters would need to vote yes on the proposal in 2018 and 2020.