- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Denham Springs lawmaker’s proposal to penalize jurisdictions that don’t align with federal immigration law has passed the Louisiana House.

The House voted 67-27 Wednesday in support of the proposal that targets so-called sanctuary cities - jurisdictions that don’t enforce federal immigration law without a court order. The bill advances to the Senate for consideration.

Under the measure, the state could bar violating cities from borrowing money for large construction projects. The proposal would authorize the state attorney general to issue an opinion on whether a jurisdiction was operating as a sanctuary city. The State Bond Commission could then deny requests until localities deemed to be out of alignment with federal law corrected their policies.

Republican Rep. Valarie Hodges said the penalty is meant to deter the potential for statewide lawlessness. The bill, she said, would protect Louisiana from policies that allow jurisdictions to harbor criminals and endanger local citizens.

New Orleans Democratic Reps. Helena Moreno and Walt Leger spoke against the bill, questioning the definition of a sanctuary city.

They suggested the measure could unfairly punish local municipalities like New Orleans while relieving federal authorities of responsibility. New Orleans currently operates under a federal consent decree that says city police “shall not initiate an investigation or take law enforcement action” based on perceived immigration status, among other guidelines.

Leger went on to question whether local law enforcement has actually refused to cooperate with federal authorities, after Hodges was unable to provide him a specific example of a time New Orleans police refused to uphold detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Leger concluded that her proposal was merely a bill that says cities have to follow federal law “in a way that insults people who come from another place.”

Lawmakers backing the measure disagreed with his analysis, saying the proposal positively reinforces important federal legislation. The chamber showed its general support for the legislation by also voting 65-20 to pass a companion bill from Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe. Morris’ proposal would make sanctuary cities liable for damages caused by their policies.

State Attorney General Jeff Landry supports both bills, but while Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he supports the concept of Hodges’ proposal, he also has some concerns about it.

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said Wednesday that the governor “thinks the author has good intentions” but also worries “the bill’s current form is overly expansive.”

“He’s not opposed to it, but has some concerns that he hopes can be worked out,” Carbo said in an email.

Hodges said her bill wasn’t meant to overly penalize cities, but that deterrents are necessary if local leaders refuse to follow the “pretty low bar” the proposal sets.

“If you don’t have law, you have anarchy,” Hodges said.

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House Bill 1148: www.legis.la.gov

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