"Sanctuary" bill dies in Louisiana Senate commitee


Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order.

A bill that aims to revoke certain funding to "sanctuary" cities has died in a Louisiana Senate committee. House Bill 676 from state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, was deferred without objection by the state's Senate's Judiciary B Committee May 30.

After the bill failed the state House of Representatives, an amended version of the bill passed May 18. That version would give municipalities with so-called "sanctuary" policies 90 days to change them or risk losing state funding — though Hodges conceded that Louisiana does not have any "sanctuaries" that protect people living in the country illegally from federal authorities.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry backed the measure, saying in a statement earlier this month that "sanctuary cities impede communication and coordination with immigration authorities, which in turn threatens public safety and jeopardizes our state's access to federal funding."

The bill faced stiff opposition in the Senate committee from New Orleans Democratic state Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and J.P. Morrell, who argued law enforcement would support that assertion if they agreed with the bill — which they don't. New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison was among law enforcement officials opposing the bill.

NOPD officers aren't prevented from communicating with federal immigration authorities, though they don't ask people about immigration status — a policy approved under NOPD's federal consent decree, but one that could be scrutinized by "sanctuary" measures as defined by the Attorney General under Hodges' bill. Harrison says NOPD's policy allows people to report crimes without fearing arrest for their immigration status.

"It is all about building trust and making people safe and providing public safety," Harrison said. "This bill ... removes resources from the department to provide that safety ... and makes officers unsafe and makes citizens unsafe."

Morrell repeatedly challenged assertions that people living in the country illegally are exempt from local law enforcement jurisdiction — regardless of immigration status, people who commit crimes will be arrested.

"There is no special dispensation where if you can't prove your identity, you get out of jail," he said.

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