A bill that would punish cities that adopt policies favorable to illegal immigrants is expected to be tweaked to address concerns over the attorney general’s authority in determining which places in Louisiana should be labeled “sanctuary cities” and what happens to cities if they are found in violation.
Attorney General Jeff Landry gave a preview of the reworked proposal during the Press Club of Baton Rouge luncheon on Monday and said he’s OK with the proposed changes.
“One of the problems I think we face in this country is the disregard for the rule of law,” Landry said. “When we allow people into this country illegally and then we blatantly allow them to stay and then confer a right greater on them than the citizens of this country then I believe we have a problem and the rule of law has completely broken down.”
The bill’s goal is to eliminate immigration-related “sanctuary cities” — jurisdictions that have policies or laws that allow local law enforcement to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials, unless they are compelled to by a court.
New Orleans and Lafayette are the only places in Louisiana that are considered to have sanctuary-like law enforcement policies.
Among the changes that are expected to be brought up when the bill returns to the Senate Judiciary A Committee on Tuesday: The attorney general will no longer have the final say in which cities are deemed “sanctuary cities.” Instead, the attorney general will petition the state court for a final determination.
Similarly, the bill will be adjusted to provide the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the State Bond Commission with more authority over punishment for those cities to address concerns over the loss of bonding capacity and funding for agencies that aren’t directly tied to sanctuary policies.
“I think that will ease the concerns of the committee and hopefully allow the bill to go through,” said Rep. Mike Johnson, a Bossier City Republican who has been working on the bill.
Under that scenario, Johnson said it would be up to the Bond Commission to determine whether projects should be denied, so the bonding capacity of unrelated agencies may not be impacted.
“I think there’s enough discretion allowed in the amendment that will allow them to decide,” he said.
Under the unamended version of House Bill 1148, which already has won approval in the House, Louisiana cities that adopt policies that shield those residing illegally in the country could lose the ability to borrow money for major infrastructure projects, and it would be up to the state attorney general to determine which jurisdictions are held to that.
Several senators on the judiciary panel voiced concerns over handing the power to the Attorney General’s Office, rather than the court.
“In no way do I have a problem with that,” Landry said of the proposal to insert the court into the process via amendment. “I’m a staunch believer in due process.”
If the bill makes it out of the committee where it faced resistance last week, it would then go to the full Senate. Then the House would have to agree on any changes before the bill could head to the governor.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has voiced concern over the bill. He said he thought the previous version gave too much power to the attorney general, and he also worried how New Orleans may be affected.
The New Orleans Police Department’s policy for dealing with undocumented immigrants was established through a federal consent decree that Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed with the Justice Department in 2012.
NOPD implemented a policy in February that bars officers from assisting federal immigrations enforcement, except when executing criminal warrants or when there is a direct threat to public safety.
Edwards said he worried that if New Orleans walks back its policy, the city could be found in violation of its agreement with the federal government.