BATON ROUGE, La. (May 22, 2017) – Last week, the Louisiana House passed a bill that would effectively prohibit so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to help enforce some federal immigration laws.
Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs) is the sponsor of House Bill 676 (HB676). The legislation would ban state agencies and political subdivisions from enacting or adopting any sanctuary policy, or otherwise endorsing or enforcing a policy that discourages enforcement of federal immigration laws or prohibits a law enforcement officer from communicating or cooperating with federal authorities concerning the immigration status of any person lawfully arrested within the state.
The bill includes a list of activities that would be considered “sanctuary policies,” including any provision that discourages cooperation with enforcement of federal immigration laws, discourages or prohibits exchanges of information with ICE, or prevents law enforcement officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status,
Under the proposed law, the state attorney general would have the authority to declare a local jurisdiction a sanctuary city. It would then have 90 days to repeal the policy, or risk losing state funding.
The original bill had penalties that were technically considered fees, requiring a 2/3 vote for approval. It initially failed to reach that margin by a 64-32 vote. After a motion for reconsideration passed, Hodges stripped those fees from the bill to eliminate the 2/3 rule. HB676 then passed by a 63-32 margin.
Some U.S. cities, and the state of California, have refused to participate in a narrow segment of federal immigration enforcement. In all of these situations, government and law enforcement agencies in these cities don’t actively stop ICE from enforcing immigration laws. However, in a narrow sense, they simply don’t provide any support or assistance to federal agents. These cities leave it to the federal government to enforce federal law.
Non-cooperation with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states or their political subdivisions to help implement or enforce any federal act or regulatory program.
It would appear that Pres. Trump recognizes this as well. In his Jan. 25 Executive Order on “sanctuary jurisdictions,” he acknowledges that his policy of having state and local agents act as interior federal immigration enforcement will be done “with the consent of State or local officials.”
HB676 represents a constitutional way to force cities to help enforce immigration laws. The federal government cannot do it do it. But if a state decides it wants to spend its time, money and resources assisting the federal government, they can certainly make that choice.
HB676 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.