Sometimes, it’s almost possible to feel sorry for Gov. Brian Sandoval. Almost.
This week, the Supreme Court threw out the bulk of Arizona’s immigration law, allowing the “show your papers” portion to stand but making it clear even that has to be done properly, dotting the constitutional I’s and crossing the constitutional T’s. How Sandoval dealt with that issue and its myriad components says a lot about him and his party.
When the court’s decision came down, Sandoval said that this proves the need for comprehensive immigration reform, and that Nevada has no need for a similar law. Finding anyone to disagree with the first statement would be difficult, although no one seems able to agree on exactly what the reform would be.
But some definitely disagree on whether Nevada needs a law. In 2010, former Assemblyman Chad Christensen tried for an initiative petition for Nevada voters to approve an Arizona-style law. Assemblyman Ira Hansen, a Republican who is part of the Hansen family that is the driving force behind the further-right Independent American Party, wants to resuscitate a bill he introduced at the 2011
legislative session. To summarize, Assembly Bill No. 430 called for verifying “the immigration status of persons who are arrested and booked,” “requiring certain applicants for … a state business license to submit with the application a copy of certain tax forms,” “prohibiting the misclassification of unauthorized aliens as legal aliens,” and requiring the use of E-Verify to determine what workers were eligible for public employment.
Hansen said what killed his bill last time wasn’t constitutional concerns, but opposition from gaming and from large contractors. The contractors want employees as cheaply as they can find them. Casino owners, who also fought Christensen’s proposal, worried about losing employees and, even more important, customers who might join in a boycott of Nevada—just as Arizona suffered a boycott for passing its anti-immigrant legislation.
That Christensen and Hansen didn’t get anywhere suggests that some Republicans will indeed dance to the gaming industry’s tune. The irony that a significant number of Republican legislators ignored gaming lobbyists on taxes shouldn’t be lost on those lobbyists or the industry they represent.
Nor should it be lost on Sandoval. Consider that he began the presidential sweepstakes by supporting Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who destroyed himself in a variety of ways. One of them was proclaiming that we should have a heart when dealing with the children of illegal immigrants, which really entertained other Republicans, including Mitt Romney.
Once Romney clinched the nomination, Sandoval endorsed him. Romney’s reaction to President Obama’s executive order declining to enforce the very laws that Perry objected to didn’t suggest much sympathy with the president’s decision. Maybe it says enough that Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican who loves facts in much the same way that a fat mouse loves a hungry cat, suggested that Obama should be impeached for his immigration policy.
Anyway, that’s the platform on which Sandoval’s friend and appointee, Sen. Dean Heller, has to run for a full term in office and Sandoval’s new friend Romney has to try to win Nevada. It’s also a base from which Sandoval continues to try to rebuild a party that has become a national laughingstock since Ron Paul’s supporters ate Romney’s backers for lunch and took over the state operation.
And it’s the base from which Sandoval hopes to run for higher office in 2016—now that his vice-presidential aspirations for 2012 appear to be behind him. Making it worse, when he does run in the future, he can point to his tenure as a federal judge—on which he based his view that the Arizona law against immigrants was constitutional. That’s understandable—two Supreme Court justices agreed with him, and one of them, Antonin Scalia, cited laws that barred free blacks from living in some states in the 19th century. If you’re Sandoval and you have dreams of moving up electorally, the Arizona immigration law is a nightmare, and you hope someday
to awaken from it.