By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) - Nevada's newly minted Republican attorney general has joined a multi-state lawsuit seeking to block President Barack Obama's order easing the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants, without the support of the state's moderate governor.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt, sworn in Jan. 5 after a campaign that focused at times on challenging federal overreach, said that Obama's November order undermines the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.
"The president cannot bypass the people's elected representatives in Congress just because they do not pass the laws he wants," Laxalt said in a statement on Monday.
However, Laxalt joined the lawsuit without the backing of Nevada's top elected official, Governor Brian Sandoval, a popular moderate Republican who easily won re-election.
Laxalt's office called to advise the governor that he would join the lawsuit, but the two men did not speak, said Laxalt spokeswoman Patty Cafferata, adding that aides to both are arranging a meeting between the two men, possibly this week.
Sandoval, who is Hispanic and also served as the state's Attorney General, has been urged to challenge Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid in 2016 and has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate.
At the time, Sandoval said Obama's unilateral action would give "false hope" to millions of people awaiting more permanent immigration reform. He urged a bipartisan solution.
"(Governor Sandoval) continues to believe that the best course of action is a legislative solution rather than legal action," Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said in a statement.
The Nevada schism comes as Republicans have been arguing among themselves over how to address immigration, especially with the 2016 presidential election coming into focus and the party's need to improve its standing with Hispanic-American voters.
With 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Obama's plan would let some 4.4 million who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents remain in the country temporarily, without the threat of deportation.
The lawsuit was initiated by Texas Governor Greg Abbott when he was the state's attorney general and asked for the president's order to be declared illegal.
About a dozen states filed a brief defending Obama's action, saying it benefited states by improving public safety, keeping families together and aiding their economies.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)