House panel narrowly advances bill barring 'sanctuary cities'

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill aimed at cracking down on so-called "sanctuary cities" in Louisiana narrowly made it out of a House committee Wednesday.

Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, was forced to cast the tie-breaking vote, sending the measure to the House floor.

HB 135, sponsored by Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, would force cities across the state to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials when it comes to compiling information on people taken into custody by local law enforcement. If the city or agency does not, they could face penalties, including losing various gr ants and money.

"This is not about being discriminatory. This is not about being racist," Hodges said, explaining that it was about ensuring the rule of law.

Attorney General Jeff Landry, a supporter of the bill, joined Hodges in presenting the legislation. As written, Landry would get to decide which cities are out of compliance and thus acting as "sanctuary cities."

"This isn't political," Landry told the House panel. "These policies endanger the very people that I have spent my adult life seeking to protect."

Much of Landry's attention was on New Orleans, a city he has labeled a "sanctuary city" in the past.

However, Zach Butterworth with the New Orleans' mayor's office, said the Crescent City already complies with federal laws.

"From 2010 to 2015, the Sheriff's Office sent 82,000 sets of finger prints to ICE, resulting in the deportation of almost 300 people out of New Orleans," said Butterworth.

For New Orleans, the problem centers on an agreement the city has with the federal government, aimed at cutting back on civil rights violations by NOPD. Under the consent decree, officers are not allowed to directly ask people their immigration status.

However, that sort of restriction makes the city in violation of Hodges' bill. Butterworth called the legislation an overreach, forcing the city to choose between federal and state rules.

"The bill can be used as a political tool to attack New Orleans," said Hodges.

Despite objections from some lawmakers that the bill is unnecessary, the panel approved the bill with a vote of 8 - 7.

Last year, Hodges sponsored similar legislation. It passed the House, but stalled in the Senate.

The vote comes just one day after a federal judge blocked an executive order by President Donald Trump that would have blocked federal funding for so-called "sanctuary cities."

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