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ICYMI: After Immigration Corruption Scandal Explodes, Joe Lombardo Faces Calls to Resign

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A scathing exposé from the Las Vegas Review-Journal revealed that Joe Lombardo hid his department’s continued collaboration with ICE to deport nonviolent undocumented immigrants despite ending the 287(g) program years earlier. After already taking both sides on immigration to pander to different audiences, Lombardo is now using his deceptive and corrupt immigration policy as a talking point in a competitive primary.

Speaking at an NAACP event, Lombardo previously downplayed Metro’s role in immigration enforcement and insisted he doesn’t have a zero-tolerance immigration policy. But to his conservative base, he touted his continued coordination with ICE and bragged that 10,000 people were deported under his leadership. He even tweeted about his zero-tolerance policy for undocumented immigrants.

The corruption scandal has blown up — last week, a Las Vegas Sun editorial column called on Lombardo to resign, saying, “He deceived us. And now, having shown himself as a man who categorically cannot be trusted, he should resign.”

“Joe Lombardo is a political hack who tried to hide his corrupt, inhumane practices from the public until he needed far-right votes,” said DGA Senior Communications Advisor Christina Amestoy. “Lombardo’s deception, and his refusal to comment on this scandal, are disqualifying for a candidate for governor.”

Read the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s report below:

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Police help ICE seize undocumented immigrants jailed for nonviolent crimes

Las Vegas police help federal officials capture undocumented immigrants jailed for nonviolent crimes, a shift in practice that critics say was never made public.

The Metropolitan Police Department has also instructed jail officials not to record on inmates’ booking logs that they were picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Metro documents show.

Illegal immigration is a top campaign issue for Republicans heading into competitive primaries in 2022, including Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who is running for governor. Many support deporting undocumented immigrants with any kind of criminal record, while Lombardo’s campaign promotes a “zero-tolerance policy for violent criminals.”

“When immigrants come to this country illegally and commit violent crimes in our communities, they need to be removed,” wrote the campaign in a statement, adding that the sheriff was “unequivocally pro-legal immigration.”

But local immigration advocates say Metro’s policy toward nonviolent offenders runs contrary to Lombardo’s public position. They also say the department’s record-keeping practice is nontransparent.

The Review-Journal obtained the policy through a public records request after Lombardo reportedly boasted at a July campaign event that he was involved in deporting 10,000 people. The policy change became effective one day after the sheriff announced in October 2019 that the county jail would exit the 287(g) program, its then-partnership with ICE.

[…]

Some critics, including UNLV Immigration Clinic Director Michael Kagan, said the policy allows Nevada’s largest law enforcement agency to obscure its coordination with ICE.

“It’s not as if Metro is a passive actor here. They’re actively involved in the process and choosing to be actively involved,” said Kagan, whose clinic defends people facing deportation. “That means that they certainly have a responsibility to keep records to let the public know what they’re doing. That’s a basic requirement of transparency.”

[…]

Some members of the Clark County Commission, who determine the county jail’s annual budget, which is currently more than $250 million, said they were unaware Metro helps ICE apprehend inmates accused of nonviolent crimes.

“If they changed the policy internally I would hope they would let us know, because before we were clear that this was about violent crimes,” Commissioner Tick Segerblom said. “To the extent we can keep families intact is best for Las Vegas.”

[…]

ICE contacted the jail about inmates at least 24 times since late October 2020, according to emails obtained by the Review-Journal. The correspondence does not state whether the inmate was taken into ICE custody.

Metro refused to release ICE documents in its possession to the Review-Journal that contain information about why the inmates were wanted for deportation, stating the federal agency must release them.

But the police department’s own records show at least five of those inmates were arrested for nonviolent crimes before ICE inquired about them. Generally they were charged with some combination of theft, drug and traffic violations, including driving under the influence.

Lombardo brought renewed scrutiny to Metro’s practices after the July campaign comment that he had helped deport 10,000 people, reported by The Nevada Independent. In September, his campaign’s Twitter account tweeted the sheriff “developed an internal system to identify and report illegal immigrants.”

Lombardo’s campaign website states that after he suspended the 287(g) program the sheriff “used extra personnel and dedicated scarce resources to working directly with ICE to determine the identity of violent criminals in other ways.”

[…]

Lombardo’s campaign did not respond to repeated inquiries about the internal system or whether the sheriff had made the claim about helping deport 10,000 people. Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield said the department could not determine how many inmates were taken into custody under the 287(g) program because it no longer has access to ICE records.

[…]

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