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It hasn’t been introduced yet, but a proposed town ordinance targeting illegal immigrants in Pahrump [Nevada] already is drawing comparisons to one of the darkest chapters in U.S. history.
If approved sometime next year, the measure would require “undocumented foreign nationals” to register themselves at the Pahrump Town Office within 24 hours of arriving in the community 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
Illegal immigrants would each have to pay a $200 fee and fill out a form with such information as the names of all their relatives in Nevada and a list of “all forged or counterfeited documents” they might have.
“Registering people? Why don’t we just bring back the internment camps?” Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo asked. “From the standpoint of law enforcement and human decency, I think it’s a very ugly piece of trash.”
The measure will be introduced at tonight’s meeting by Pahrump Town Board member Michael Miraglia, author of the controversial “English-only” ordinance approved by the board in November.
Miraglia said he played no part in writing the new “Undocumented Foreign National Registration Ordinance.” He simply introduced it on behalf of Scott Metro, who used to host a talk show on one of Pahrump’s two local television stations.
In a written statement Monday, Metro said the ordinance is meant to address the “ever increasing threat to our security, economy and well being” posed by illegal immigrants.
The measure “deals only with those that choose to ignore our laws” and “knows no race or color,” he said in the statement.
Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics In Politics, called the ordinance “mean-spirited, unfair, unjust and unconstitutional.”
“The purpose is to create and incite racial tension,” he said. “The perception is they hate us. It’s a racial thing. And the perception in this case is almost 100 percent real.”
Under the version of the measure set to be introduced tonight, illegal immigrants who fail to register face a $500 fine and 10 days in jail for the first offense and a $5,000 fine and 100 days in jail for the second offense. The penalty for a third offense is deportation, which would be arranged and paid for by the town using the money it collects in fines and registration fees.
The proposal even comes with its own defense mechanism.
Under Article 4, any “non-government agency” that challenges the ordinance in court must first shell out $20,000 to “cover any costs which may be incurred by the Town of Pahrump.”
It’s called a “challenge fee,” but Lee Rowland, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, jokingly referred to it as “the ACLU tax.”
This will be Miraglia’s final meeting as a member of the board.
When Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed him in July to fill out the term of another member, it was too late to file as a candidate for a full term on the board.
The two-year resident of Pahrump now has his sights set on bigger things. “I’d like to run for a higher office, because I think there is a lot of work to be done in this country and this city and this state,” Miraglia said. “We need people with backbone.”
Miraglia’s “English Language and Patriot Reaffirmation Ordinance” declares English the town’s official language, denies town benefits to undocumented immigrants, and bans the flying of foreign flags by themselves.
Also during tonight’s meeting, Miraglia will urge his fellow board members to approve a resolution that calls on state and federal lawmakers to adopt English as the official language and step up enforcement of immigration laws.
Romero plans to be at tonight’s meeting to speak out against the idea, even though several people have told him that it has very little chance of passing.
Romero acknowledged that the ordinance could frighten off some illegal immigrants, but he said, “The people it should really scare are the people of Pahrump.”
He predicted that if the community becomes known as a hotbed for bigots, residents will move away and business owners will rethink their plans to open shop there.
DeMeo said Pahrump got “a bad rap” as a result of Miraglia’s measure and compared to that, this new measure is like “the difference between the Girl Scouts and a SWAT team.”
The sheriff has announced publicly that his office would not enforce any provision of the “English-only” ordinance. On Monday, he said he has no plans to enforce this new ordinance either, assuming the town board even approves it.
(Posted on December 13, 2006)