Two bills that have been moved to the House floor in Louisiana could put pressure on law enforcement agencies in major metropolitan areas to cooperate with federal officials when policing undocumented immigrants.
After hours of debate and several amendments each, the House Judiciary Committee last week advanced HB 151 by Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, and HB 453 by Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe.
Hodges’ HB 151 prohibits laws creating “sanctuary cities,” where law enforcement do not cooperate with federal immigration officials in the detaining of immigrants in the country illegally, and prevents the State Bond Commission from issuing bonds to such cities.
An original draft of the bill prevented sanctuary cities from receiving any state funding, but Hodges, along with Attorney General Jeff Landry, who testified in support of the bill, decided to lessen the punishment.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also testified in support of the bill, argued that New Orleans and Lafayette are the state’s two major sanctuary cities.
The New Orleans Police Department, due to a clause in a 2012 agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice, does not hold detainees for federal immigration officials, and Lafayette will only do so with a court order.
Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, took issue with one piece of the bill that he interpreted as racial profiling by police, since it allows them to ask any person their citizenship status. He supported an amendment that limited the question being asked only of those suspected of or are witness to crimes.
Other critics of the bill said that the “sanctuary city” label is a misnomer.
Fernando Lopez of the Congress of Day Laborers, which represents manual laborers in the New Orleans region, said undocumented immigrants are already racially profiled and subject to unjust policing in the Crescent City and that the bill would open them to further mistreatment.
“There are no such things as sanctuary cities in Louisiana,” Lopez said.
HB 453, a “companion bill” which allows victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants released by police to sue the city or parish, was also passed by the committee unanimously.