AUGUSTA, Maine (June 9, 2017) – Last week, the Maine House killed a bill that would have effectively prohibited so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to help enforce some federal immigration laws in the state.
Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Brewer) introduced House Bill 366 (LD366) in February, along with a bipartisan coalition of seven cosponsors. The legislation would have required all state government entities and political subdivisions in Maine to “fully comply with and to the full extent permitted by law support the enforcement of federal immigration law.” It would have explicitly barred limiting or restricting a number of actions involving enforcement of federal immigration law.
“A government entity may not limit or restrict the enforcement of federal immigration law, including, but not limited to, limiting or restricting a government entity from complying with an immigration detainer, limiting or restricting a government entity from providing a federal immigration official access to an inmate for an interview, limiting or restricting a government entity from initiating an immigration status investigation or limiting or restricting a government entity from providing a federal immigration official with the incarceration status or release date of an inmate in custody of a government entity.”
The legislation also included provisions that would have barred government agencies from limiting inquiries about a person’s immigration status or from sharing that information.
Any state government entity found by the attorney general to be in violation of the law would have been subject to losing state funding.
On May 25, the Judiciary Committee voted 7-6 to issue an “ought not to pass” report. On May 31, the House accepted the “ought not to pass” report by a 77-59 vote, killing the legislation.
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.”
LD366 would have represented a constitutional way to force cities in Maine 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.