Lawmakers are gutting a bill that would have required local law enforcement to report how often they are transferring people over to immigration authorities and how serious the underlying charges are.
AB376, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Selena Torres and 10 other Assembly Democrats, originally called for a report detailing how many undocumented people were transferred to the custody of a federal agency after being detained by a local agency that year and why, as well as what crimes those people were initially arrested for.
Torres said the amendment unveiled Friday in the Senate comes at her request and would remove almost all of the bill, except for a portion that requires officers in a jail to tell a person why they are being questioned about their immigration status.
“Ultimately, we decided that there were definitely things that we needed to fix in the piece of legislation and we’re going to continue to work on this in the interim and law enforcement is completely on board with this discussion,” Torres said. “We do know that an individual should have the right to know that they’re going to be asked information for immigration-related purposes … I think ultimately we’re still passing a great piece of legislation that is going to really help Nevada immigrants.”
The bill initially had support from law enforcement but hit headwinds in a Senate committee, when Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department lobbyist Chuck Callaway questioned why an amendment narrowed the scope of the information that would be reported to the public to just misdemeanors.
“The amendment actually limited … what the police would report to strictly misdemeanors. I think the original bill included all, so we weren’t … cherry-picking data that could make the law enforcement people look bad in the eyes of specific groups in our communities,” Republican Sen. Ira Hansen said last week before voting against the bill.
The bill emerged amid criticism that Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement through a so-called 287(g) agreement is leading to people being deported after arrests for issues as minor as unpaid traffic tickets. Sheriff Joe Lombardo has said he does not want that to happen.
But the police department’s failure to turn over records about its transfers of inmates to ICE has so far made it impossible to tell whether Metro is adhering to the policy. Metro denied an August 2018 records request from The Nevada Independent for a booking log indicating the crime for which a person was initially arrested and a list of jail inmates who ICE requested of Metro, for example.
Members of the Nevada Immigrant Coalition launched a campaign last week urging Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Nicole Cannizzaro to bring the measure up for a committee vote, which ultimately happened.
“AB376 is a simple matter of transparency. All Nevadans have the right to basic information about how state and local agencies are functioning,” Bliss Requa-Trautz of the Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center said in a statement at the time. “Opposition by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to this bill raises important questions about their motive, and specifically what LVMPD hopes to hide by opposing this legislation.”
Assembly Majority Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson said previously that lawmakers did not advance AB281 — which would have prevented local law enforcement from detaining someone on an immigration hold unless there is an independent finding of probable cause — because they wanted to focus on bills like Torres’ AB376 and gather more information about how collaborations between police and ICE were going.
“We’re not letting up at all. We’re just saying, let’s get a handle on what’s accurate,” Benitez-Thompson said last month, explaining why AB281 died. “Let’s make sure that we know what’s going on and what the practices are from county to county, so that’s data we’re going to be collecting.”
Torres said that even though her bill has been scaled back, memorandums of understanding and 287(g) agreements are up for periodic renewal and there may be opportunities to negotiate what information can be publicly shared.