Nevada town bans immigrant benefits
Nov. 15, 2006
PAHRUMP, Nev. - Elected officials in this southern Nevada town have adopted an
ordinance declaring English the official language, restricting the display of
foreign flags and denying town benefits to illegal immigrants.
A 3-2 Town Board vote drew a standing ovation and cheers late Tuesday from many
of the 250 people at a meeting that featured passionate arguments about the
"We have to start somewhere," said trustee Michael Miraglia, who sponsored the
measure targeting illegal immigrants. He said Tuesday it was "for all our
servicemen and women who died for our country," and said he hoped it would
provide a model for other cities. Audience members heckled an American Civil
Liberties Union of Nevada official and booed Pahrump resident Vicky Parker, who
said she was "appalled at the overt Hispano-phobia going on."
Lee Rowland, an ACLU staff lawyer from Las Vegas, told the board the ordinance
would invite an expensive lawsuit challenging its constitutionally.
"If you pass an ordinance that is blatantly in violation of the First Amendment,
this town will be on the hook," Rowland said.
Town Manager David Richards called the English Language and Patriot
Reaffirmation ordinance a statement that "everyone should speak English, and if
you are going to move here then you ought to respect the American flag and fly
it in prominence."
Some who said they favored the ordinance blamed the federal government for
failure to address immigration issues. Most said not much will change with the
Town business is already conducted in English, the ordinance regulating the
display of flags won't be enforced, and the town has no real "benefits" to take
away because public aid is administered by the state or the county, officials
The flag measure requires an American flag to be displayed at least as
prominently as a foreign flag.
Pahrump, with 33,241 residents, is 60 miles west of Las Vegas. It is the largest
town in sprawling Nye County, where about 9 percent the population of 41,302 was
Hispanic in 2005, according to the Nevada state demographer.