Becoming a sanctuary | Families worry while debate heats up

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (KSNV file)

Becoming a sanctuary means an awful lot to 18-year-old Noemi Guigui.

She’s a citizen. Her father isn’t.

He’s one of the estimated 110,000 undocumented immigrants in Clark County.

“Yes, I worry every second of the day, like if they go out just to be store they could probably be stopped,” Guigui told News 3 at her family’s North Las Vegas home. “We live right next to the grocery store, so if they actually go out and they get stopped, you don’t know what could happen.”

RELATED LINKS | Trump's threat to cut funds to sanctuary cities faces new challenges

Officially, Clark County and the City of Las Vegas are not sanctuaries, and Republican Michael Roberson would like to keep it that way.

The Republican from Henderson, the Minority Leader in the State Senate, is proposing a bill that would eliminate state funding for localities that ignore federal immigration law.

“All my bill would do is require local governments to follow the federal requirement. To alert federal immigration officials when Metro arrested someone of a crime, in many cases a violent crime, and whose legal right to be in this country is in question,” Roberson told News 3 by phone from Carson City.

This is Roberson’s answer to Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who, on Facebook last week, said “it’s time for Clark County to become a sanctuary county.

Today, she told News 3 she just wanted to start a discussion and that the point may be moot because of how the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department handles illegal immigrants.

RELATED LINKS | Mayors across nation vow to defy Trump’s sanctuary standoff

LVMPD cooperates with immigration authorities under what’s called the “287g” program.

It only turns over suspects here illegally if there’s a warrant for them or if they’re facing what’s called an immigration detainer.

LVMPD adopted the policy in 2014 under Sheriff Gillespie.

“We have urged Sheriff Lombardo to maintain the same position or at least go a step further and actually become a sanctuary county,” said ACLU Nevada Executive Director Tod Story.

While LVMPD does not play an active immigration enforcement role, Story worries about what would happen if that changes.

“What we found time and time again, not only in this community but in communities across the country, is that when police step in to do the jobs of the federal government in their immigration activities, the community closes up,” said Story. “It withdraws from the police department and views them as adversaries.”

RELATED LINKS | 'Full Measure': Sanctuary cities

“Well right now, jurisdictions are really in kind of a wait-and-see period,” said Faye Hips, an immigration expert with the Washington D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute. “For a while, during the later years of the Obama administration, we saw a rise in sanctuary policies because there was an opposition to President Obama’s deportation policies. But now with the threat of some sort of federal funding being withdrawn from jurisdictions that have these policies, you’re going to see a decision point.”

“The grants that are likely on the chopping block are a limited number of law enforcement grants,” Hips continued.

That, obviously, would concern local police. Local governments have been reticent to talk for fear of jeopardizing other funding that stretches from highways to housing.

President Trump says he’s carrying out campaign promises to help the American worker and to keep the country safe, by getting criminals here illegally, out.

Hips says there’s an irony in the debate.

“Illegal immigration is at its lowest levels in decades,” Hips said.

Guigui’s 13-year-old brother isn’t interested in the nuances of the political debate. He’s worried about his dad.

“Just to come home and not see him, and worry about him – like never knowing if he’s gonna come back or not,” the boy said.

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