Earl Long used to scoff that if you wanted to hide something from then-Attorney General Jack Gremillion, put it in a law book. Today, Uncle Earl would surely say something similar about Louisiana AG Jeff Landry — only put it in plain sight on a map of Louisiana. Landry clearly doesn't know Jefferson Parish from New Orleans.
That must be the case, because in his zeal to make political hay out of a tragedy, Landry erroneously stated that a person living in the U.S. without legal permission, who clearly lives in Jefferson Parish, is nonetheless a beneficiary of New Orleans' alleged "sanctuary cities" policy. Indeed, there are so many things wrong with Landry's shameless, ham-fisted, demagogic attempt to grandstand on the bodies of two innocent people killed in a tragic accident in St. John the Baptist Parish that it's difficult to get them all into one column.
Let's start with the AG's most egregious offense: trying to capitalize politically on a tragedy. On the morning of Aug. 28, a bus filled with workers recruited to clean up flooded areas around Baton Rouge was involved in a fatal crash that killed St. John Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin and Jermaine Starr. Chauvin was responding to an earlier accident on I-10, and Starr was a passenger in a car that was rear-ended by the bus.
The 37-year-old bus driver, Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, does not have a driver's license and is in the U.S. illegally from Honduras. He has been cited several times for driving without a license and has been arrested on other charges as well. He's now in jail; his bond has been set at $1.1 million.
Never one to pass up a chance to score cheap political points, Landry issued a statement claiming that Louisiana's lack of a "sanctuary city" ban is to blame. The AG supported a bill to punish such cities (New Orleans being an obvious target, but other parishes could qualify as well) by depriving them of key state funds — all at the AG's discretion. The bill cleared the House but was killed in a Senate committee after opposition from the governor and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, who called the measure "a bullshit bill."
"It comes as no surprise that Amaya-Rodriguez was living in metropolitan New Orleans, our state's only sanctuary city," Landry's statement said, adding that sanctuary policies encourage illegal immigration and threaten public safety. The AG said lawmakers should reconsider the sanctuary city ban.
Landry's lack of sensitivity to the deceased is inexcusable, but only an idiot — or a rank opportunist — would overlook the fact that Rodriguez lives in Jefferson, not New Orleans. His arrests came in Jefferson as well. Moreover, as Mayor Mitch Landrieu noted, the company that owns the bus is likewise based in Jefferson — and cannot legally operate in New Orleans.
"The old adage of never letting a good crisis go to waste is on full display," Landrieu said of Landry's ploy.
Here's another adage: If you want to hide something from Landry, put it in plain sight — and give him a roadmap.