- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 30, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - For the second consecutive year, Louisiana senators on Tuesday jettisoned a proposal to penalize so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities.

A Senate judiciary committee, without objection, rejected a House-supported bill from Republican Rep. Valarie Hodges that would have prevented sanctuary cities from receiving state grants.

Attorney General Jeff Landry had backed the proposal, saying sanctuary cities harbor violent criminals. Landry had testified in front of a House committee in April, but was not present Tuesday.

Democratic Sen. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans said law enforcement officers would have backed the bill if they agreed with Landry’s argument. Neither he nor his colleagues had been approached by sheriffs or police chiefs who are in support of the measure, Morrell said.

“Law enforcement is not shy coming to this committee and saying, ‘We need something,’” said Morrell, who is the brother of two police officers. “When I sit with (my brothers) and they talk about their concerns about what’s dangerous in society, immigration isn’t even on their radar at this point.”

Police officers need to be allowed to ask whether a person who is under arrest is legally in the United States, said Hodges, of Denham Springs. Calling her bill a matter of national security, Hodges said immigration fraud was “one of the key methods” used by the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the 9/11 Commission, at least six of the 19 hijackers broke immigration laws.

New Orleans prohibits police officers from asking suspects about their immigration status. If that policy were outlawed, New Orleans police superintendent Michael Harrison said some people would be too afraid to report crimes or help officers find criminals.

“If people are not reporting because of their fear, it makes our crime pattern and our statistics flawed,” Harrison said. “That means we can’t adequately deploy, which makes officers unsafe, which makes citizens unsafe.”

New Orleans is in compliance with federal law and is not a sanctuary city, as defined by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Harrison said. In a recent memo, Sessions said sanctuary cities are ones that “willfully refuse to comply” with federal law.

Hodges said she was not sure whether there are any cities in Louisiana that she would consider to be sanctuary cities.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, had not taken a position on the bill, but expressed concerns last year about a similar piece of legislation Hodges had sponsored. That proposal also passed the House before failing in a different Senate judiciary committee from the one that heard Hodges’ measure this year.


House Bill 676: www.legis.la.gov



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