LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — GOP frontrunner Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo found himself under attack on the issue of illegal immigrants during KLAS-TV’s Wednesday night debate between five of the Republican candidates.
The candidates were asked about President Joe Biden’s plans to lift Title 42, a health order activated during the COVID pandemic, that allows Customs and Border Protection to turn away migrants at the border. Some governors have sent members of the National Guard to the U.S./Mexico border to assist in security.
With the exception of Lombardo, the other four candidates, former U.S. Senator Dean Heller, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, venture capitalist Guy Nohra, and attorney Joey Gilbert said they would send the National Guard.
“If you deploy them to the border that money would dry up quickly. It would prevent them from responding to any crisis within our state borders,” Lombardo said.
Heller and Gilbert both rolled their eyes at Lombardo’s answer and Gilbert went as far as to call Lombardo “Sanctuary Joe” and said the illegal immigration issue has resulted in an explosion of crime in Clark County.
“I am the only one standing at this podium that has removed anybody that has committed crimes associated with being undocumented and illegal within the state of Nevada,” Lombardo said.
Then Heller joined in, seeing an opportunity to attack the GOP frontrunner.
“Joe’s not telling the truth. He made southern Nevada a sanctuary city,” Heller said. “If you want to live in a dangerous neighborhood, live in a sanctuary city and that’s what this guy caused. What you do is have a sheriff like this guy that kicks ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) out of Metro and not only does he do that he practices catch and release and those illegal immigrants that committed crimes, he’s putting them back on the street.”
Heller claimed violent crimes were up 45%, and homicides by 50% in Clark County.
“You can’t draw a line from the immigration issue to the crime statistics and as far as the homicide rate we are currently down 3% and I have not kicked ICE out of our jail and our system,” Lombardo responded.
Heller did add that a lawsuit resulted in police not being able to use the federal database to identify individuals.
In Oct. 2019, the ACLU called on Metro to stop using ICE detainers saying they were unconstitutional. Sheriff Lombardo agreed to end the practice. The detainers allowed people to be held an additional 48 hours so ICE could pick them up if they did not have legal status.
While there were plans to end Title 42 on May 23, last week a district court judge ruled the Biden administration must continue to expel migrants. The Department of Homeland Security has predicted ending Title 42 would result in a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. A mix of Republican and Democrat senators have introduced a bill that would not allow Title 42 to be lifted without a detailed plan on how to prevent an influx of migrants at the border.