Three immigration bills to watch at the Nevada Legislature

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signs AB27 into law at the Capitol in Carson City as lawmakers look on. The measure would allow immigrants with temporary legal status to get a Nevada teacher’s license.

By Ana Ley (contact)
Tuesday, May 19, 2015 | 2 a.m.

State legislation seldom impacts immigration policy, but several measures aiming to help people living in the U.S. illegally are making great strides in the Nevada Legislature.

The success of the Democrat-backed bills in a Republican-controlled Legislature is a small victory for Nevada’s immigration advocates, who are reeling from a blow dealt by a February court decision that halted a program that would have spared millions from deportation. (Las Vegas activists today are staging their third protest to denounce the lawsuit that led to the federal court decision, which is backed by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.)

Here are three thriving proposals to watch:

Assembly Bill 27: Teaching licenses for immigrants

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed AB27 into law on Wednesday, making it easier for immigrants with temporary legal status to get a Nevada teaching license.

Proponents hope it will alleviate the state’s crippling teacher shortage. The bill was lobbied by agencies that include the Clark County School District and the Nevada State Education Association, the state’s teacher union.

Existing law lets the state superintendent give teaching licenses to those who aren’t citizens but have work permits only if there’s a teacher shortage for the subject that person can teach. Otherwise, only U.S. citizens and legal residents can apply. The bill would loosen that requirement and let immigrants get teaching licenses if a district has a teacher shortage of any kind.

“There is a growing need to diversify our workforce,” Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz said after the bill cleared its first legislative hurdle in February. “This way we’ll have a more diverse pool and potentially even bilingual teachers who can communicate better with students and parents.”

Senate Bill 401: Protection against immigration fraudsters

Introduced by Sen. Moises “Mo” Denis, SB401 would crack down on advertising that can be misleading to Spanish-speakers seeking immigration help.

The state Senate voted 21-0 on April 16 to approve SB401. The bill is now being reviewed at the Assembly, where on Monday it cleared the chamber’s Committee on Government Affairs.

Current law prevents a notary public from using the term “notario” in their ads unless they’re also licensed lawyers in Nevada. That's because the term means lawyer in some Latin American countries, and can lead Spanish-speaking clients to seek legal assistance from people not qualified to provide it.

The fraud can lead to bungled paperwork and hurt immigrants' chance of gaining legal status. The bill adds the term "licenciado" to the list of banned words because it can also be confused with a Spanish description for lawyer.

Senate Joint Resolution 21: Request for immigration reform

AB21 is a measure to urge Congress to to enact comprehensive immigration reform. The symbolic move is common — in 2014, seven states adopted resolutions seeking action from Congress or the Obama administration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The resolution has cleared the Senate and is now being considered by the Assembly. A long line of Democratic Assembly members testified in the bill’s favor during an April 20 hearing.

Supporters hope it will encourage federal lawmakers to draft a solution for dealing with the flow of undocumented immigrants coming from around the world into the U.S.

“We’re going to continue suggesting a resolution until” reform happens, Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen told his colleagues while testifying, noting the importance of “sending a strong message to Congress.”