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January 31, 2015

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Secretary of state dives into immigration debate

Miller’s proposal to use citizenship-checking system may foretell run

Ross Miller

Ross Miller

John Ensign

John Ensign

It’s almost impossible to separate politics from policy. So it was inevitable that Secretary of State Ross Miller’s venture into immigration policy/politics Tuesday would be seen as a possible prelude to a 2012 U.S. Senate run.

Miller, a Democrat, broached the explosive issue with the Board of Examiners, proposing that all state contractors be required to check the citizenship status of their employees using the federal E-Verify system.

The move seemingly came from nowhere, prompting speculation about his political intentions. But Miller denied any motive other than that it was an important thing to do because of the state’s high unemployment rate.

Regardless, Miller seeking out the issue will stoke the perception that the 34-year-old, who just won his second term in statewide office, has higher political ambitions.

By raising the issue, Miller risks alienating some of the liberal base. But Democratic political operatives say polls consistently show broad support for get-tough immigration stances, such as Arizona’s new law.

Miller said he’s not running for anything — right now.

“I haven’t even been sworn into this office yet for my second term,” he said. “Right now, I’m committed to serve my full four-year term.”

Miller traveled to Washington, D.C., recently where he met with E-Verify officials to learn more about the system.

“The criticism of the program is that it was too cumbersome for employers, the process was not workable,” he said. “I was encouraged by the meetings.”

The U.S. Senate seat up for election in 2012 is now held by Republican Sen. John Ensign, who has endured a scandal surrounding his affair with a staffer and assistance he gave to her husband, who also worked for Ensign, to secure lobbying work. He has been cleared of a Federal Election Commission complaint, and the Justice Department has told his attorneys that Ensign is no longer being investigated. A Senate Ethics Committee probe is pending.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., has said she is considering a run and will make her decision by mid-February.

Billy Vassiliadis, the influential Democratic political consultant and lobbyist, said he thinks Berkley has the right of first refusal. But, he added, Miller, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Treasurer Kate Marshall are “potentially great statewide candidates.”

“I don’t think they’re going to risk their political careers and have a divisive Democratic primary,” Vassiliadis said, “particularly after witnessing what happened on the Republican side this year.”

In this year’s U.S. Senate race, Republicans couldn’t settle on a top-tier candidate to face Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Sharron Angle won the crowded contest, but emerged unprepared for the initial Reid onslaught, and the GOP remained divided by some of her conservative stances.

So what’s Miller’s motive — policy or politics?

“I think this is one of the times where good politics and reasonable policy can coexist,” said Dan Hart, a Democratic political consultant. “I think it’s a testament to his skill to see that intersection.”

Miller said about 1,400 Nevada companies voluntarily use E-Verify. The federal government requires its contractors to use E-Verify, an executive order issued by former President George W. Bush.

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  1. The Republicans talk a good line about immigration reform but the truth is they do not want it! They want employers to be able to hire cheap labor, folks that will work for less than minimum wage. They want employers to make all the profit they can.

    I hope Miller pushes this to require ALL, yes ALL, Nevada employers verify citizenship or legal status for all employees. The casinos are a huge issue, not just contractors.

  2. I am so excited, I did background checks on there voting pattern and ideas. Finally at least one person I voted for is doing the right thing hit "their" pocket book then they will leave.

    @ RanchoJuan I guess according to you being an unemployed American while a illegal works is so much better for the economy.

  3. Take away the ability for an illegal immigrant to find work, produce "anchor babies" and receive social benefits (including education) and there would be no need to beef up border security.

    We have already seen a small decline in the illegal immigrant population here because of the lack of jobs. That should say it all about what we need to do to solve the problem.

  4. Only one problem: E-verify's inaccuracy rate for unauthorized workers is 54%. It is wrong only slightly more than half of the time. If you authenticated workers by flipping a coin, your odds of being right would be better than the E-verify system. Nobody will spend the money to make it accurate. E-verify is effective only for political posturing. Hopefully, now that it's inaccuracy is known, it will no longer be effective for political purposes.

  5. Thanks for clearing that up. So the intent was there, the understanding was a bit off.

    To those who do support the journey north...that is great. I would too as long as they do it the right way. Otherwise they should all grow some.... and do what that 19yr old did and apply for the sheriffs dept. It was in a story a while back about a border town needing a sheriff and the only person who applied was a this girl who wanted to make a change.

  6. Mr. Miller sounds like a man with ethics.