Sen. Cancela won’t resurrect ‘sanctuary state’ bill despite recent ruling against Trump administration policy

By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

Despite this week’s decision by a federal judge to block a Trump administration mandate to strip federal funding from “sanctuary cities,” state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, will not try to resurrect her “sanctuary state” bill during the remainder of the 2017 Legislature.

Cancela, speaking on Nevada Newsmakers Thursday, said the bill was dealt a near-death blow last month when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said local policies of non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities would cost communities federal funding.

Even with this week’s ruling against that directive, Cancela said, “It was clear the political appetite was not there to discuss this bill.”


She also did not want to jeopardize federal funding to Nevada communities by pushing ahead with the bill. President Trump said he would fight the recent ruling from a California judge up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It was very concerning to imagine losing what would have been $9 million (in federal funding) alone in Clark County,” she said. “And when you take that over all the different law enforcement agencies, we were nearing triple-digit losses of funds (for each). That is something that I didn’t take lightly.”

The bill also was hit with incoming fire from law-enforcement lobbyists and Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson. Cancela was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the bill “became inundated with misinformation and politicized with fear.”

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

Nowhere in the text of the bill is the word “sanctuary” used.

“I have a hard time with the word ‘sanctuary’ because it doesn’t have any legal meaning,” Cancela said on Nevada Newsmakers. “It is a political term, not a policy term.”

The meaning of the bill was a fiscal one, Cancela said, yet it got wrapped up in politics.

“The intent of the bill is to make sure (local) taxpayer dollars were not used to do federal government work. That’s what the California judge ruled upon (this week), is that cities, municipalities, counties and states should be able to make their own decisions without fear of intimidation with threat by the Federal government,” she said.

“While that proposal will not move forward this session, I am hopeful that we can have discussions at the county and city level to make sure our our tax dollars are protected,” she said.

Cancela noted that the recent federal judge’s decision could mean the issue will be tied up in the courts for a year or more. She hopes to use that time to gain buy-in and understanding.

“There is a lot more time to have a discussion about what exactly municipalities and states can do to make sure that their (local) tax dollars are protected and making sure the federal government isn’t telling them how to manage their law enforcement.”

She wants to have productive talks with local law enforcement about the bill after the 120-day 2017 Legislature ends in early June.

“I am hopeful that we can have a conversation about law enforcement and immigrant protection at the local level, after session,” she said. “I am going to do everything I can to be a part of those discussions.”

Cancela will focus on other immigration-related bills for the rest of the session.

One of the most important is SB 325, which would end the five-year wait time for children of legal immigrants to receive health care under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIPS).

“And remember, if you are accessing Medicaid or CHIPS benefits, it is because you are a low-income person and so this makes sure that those kids — who are some of our neediest — don’t wait five years before they can see a doctor.”

Cancela is also working with Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas on SB186, which would create a Nevada Office of New Americans — under the control of the governor — to help immigrants who may be doctors, educators, dentists or engineers with professional licensing and job placement in Nevada.

“Sen Denis has a bill that is modeled after a Republican proposal in Michigan and would create the Office of New Americans and it is for immigrants who are new to Nevada to be able to find the resources they need to enter back into the career path they had in their home countries,” Cancela said. “For example, if you are a doctor from Libya, you don’t necessarily come to the U.S. and access a doctor’s job. You may end up driving a taxi cab and the intent of the office is to make sure folks have the resources they need to be able to be successful as possible. I think that is very important, especially because our immigrant population is growing so quickly in Nevada.”

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