Legislation that would have cracked down on illegal immigrants received some harsh words from local lawmakers recently. House Bill 1205 by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, would have forced local and state governments to confirm the citizenship status of people applying for certain public benefits. Local lawmakers complained that Harrison's legislation would have led to racial profiling, additional costs and other controversies.
The state of Arizona recently passed sweeping immigration laws that continue to stir a raging national debate. Opponents of Harrison's bill say Louisiana would be criticizing the feds after all the hurricane aid it sent and all the oil spill recovery dollars that are likely to come — and the many immigrants who helped rebuild southeast Louisiana. "I just don't like it when we start injecting what I see as sort of meaningless language into our laws and pointing the finger at the federal government and then asking them to give us money," says Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.
Harrison explained why he titled his bill the "Louisiana Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2010" and exactly who he believes it would benefit. "This is not the federal government's money," Harrison says. "It is taxpayers' money, regardless of where or what political entity holds those funds."
Among other things, the bill, which is dead for the session, would have forced the attorney general's office to create a new investigative unit to look into illegal immigration practices. It also would have certified citizenship through an electronic database operated on the federal level. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said the government doesn't need to get into the business of tracking human beings, no matter their origin. "This really scares the daylights out of me," he said. — Jeremy Alford