"Sanctuary" city bill fails in Louisiana House


New Orleanians marched against President Donald Trump's immigration orders in January. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • New Orleanians marched against President Donald Trump's immigration orders in January.

Legislators in the Louisiana House of Representatives failed to pass a bill that defines "sanctuary" cities and gives the state Attorney General authority to withhold state funding to them.

House Bill 676 was a second attempt from state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, who was able to get support for her measure in the House last year, though it later died in the Senate. With 70 votes needed for passage this time around, Hodges' measure — bolstered by aggressive support of Attorney General Jeff Landry — failed 64-32, following questions from New Orleans lawmakers challenging its constitutionality and whether it supports racial profiling.

"It's time to put America and Americans first," Hodges said before the bill's debate May 9. State Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, also asked Hodges if she could believe she'd face opposition for a "pro-America" bill. "Thank you for your bravery," Horton said.

State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, attempted to add an amendment that effectively removed all criteria for a "sanctuary" policy, as federal courts have ruled against President Donald Trump's order to make local municipalities enforce federal immigration laws or risk losing federal funds. Leger's amendment failed 39-56. "Why would anyone object to this amendment?" Leger said. "You got to be kidding me. This is simple. It mirrors the federal law. It's not a trick."
"Sanctuary" policies, according to Hodges' bill, prevent local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities and prohibit local cops from asking any "suspect, arrestee, or other person under lawful detention" about their immigration status. Under the bill, if cities or municipalities enable those rules, the Attorney General would be able to halt state funding to them.

State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, asked how law enforcement would check a person's immigration status without subjecting them to profiling.

Hodges suggested officers still could ask whether they speak English.

State Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, asked whether that means cops can racially profile Latin or Hispanic people. "This is a horrible bill," he said.

Under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) forbids officers from questioning people about immigration status, a policy decision supported by Chief Michael Harrison and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who believe leaving immigration matters to the feds allows local cops to build trust with vulnerable immigrant communities who fear deportation or arrest for reporting crimes. NOPD is not prohibited from communicating with the feds.

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