Guest column: “Sanctuary” bill would damage regional economy _lowres

Mitch Landrieu

Above all else, public safety is New Orleans’ top priority. When I became mayor of New Orleans in 2010, I immediately requested that the Department of Justice step in to help reform the New Orleans Police Department.

At the time, the public demanded that policing practices in our city be constitutional and consistent with all federal, state and local laws. In 2012, the NOPD and Justice Department entered into an expansive consent decree, reflecting a shared commitment to effective constitutional and professional law enforcement. Since then, we have overhauled the NOPD, launched nine new recruit classes and put in place dozens of new operational policies that have transformed the culture of our police department.

As part of the consent decree, earlier this year the NOPD finalized a policy regarding the way officers interact with immigrants when providing policing services across the city. The policy establishes a clear set of guidelines for officers that focus on protecting public safety and building trust between the community and the NOPD. If members of our community feel they risk being jailed for reporting crimes to local police, or crimes that they have witnessed, our ability to protect the entire city suffers.

As with every policy the NOPD adopts, this was meticulously reviewed by the Federal Consent Decree Monitor, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the NOPD’s compliance bureau to ensure constitutionality, workability and consistency.

Furthermore, the entire consent decree process falls under the oversight jurisdiction of Judge Susie Morgan, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

In addition, officials from the New Orleans office of the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement also were consulted in the drafting of this policy.

Let me be perfectly clear: Any person in the city of New Orleans who commits a crime will be held accountable by our criminal justice system, regardless of their immigration status. If you break the law, you will face consequences, whether you are in this country legally or not. NOPD will always work with federal immigration officials when there is a criminal warrant.

Contrary to what politicians in Baton Rouge say, the NOPD’s policy does not make the city of New Orleans a “sanctuary city.” NOPD’s immigration policy is aimed at making our city safer by giving immigrants more opportunities to cooperate with law enforcement so that we can arrest and punish the violent criminals in our community, immigrant or otherwise.

NOPD’s policy means we are going after violent criminals, not raiding churches and markets to apprehend people for civil immigration violations.

Right now in the Legislature, state Rep. Valerie Hodges has authored House Bill 1148, which seeks to punish so-called “sanctuary cities” as defined by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. The bill gives the attorney general unchecked power and discretion to cut off all borrowing capacity for any entity within the city of New Orleans, jeopardizing repairs to New Orleans’ drainage system and fixes to our roads. It would also hurt the airport, the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium, upgrades to the Superdome as well as expansions to the Morial Convention Center and the Port of New Orleans.

This legislation is completely irresponsible and will inhibit economic progress in New Orleans that is generating tax revenue for the rest of the state. The attorney general should not have unlimited authority to punish New Orleans for complying with the Department of Justice.

I urge all our New Orleans residents to stand up to this unprecedented power grab.

Mitch Landrieu is mayor of New Orleans.