BATON ROUGE — Lafayette and Orleans parishes and New Orleans won't be penalized for being identified as sanctuary cities after a bill proposing communities who institute policies perceived to protect illegal immigrants died in a Senate panel here Tuesday after fiery opposition from law enforcement.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand unleashed a rare expletive during testimony against House Bill 1148, calling Rep. Valarie Hodges' measure "bull---- Republican philosophy from Washington, D.C., and I'm a Republican," Normand said.
"I resent the (implication) we're making our streets unsafe," he said. "I'm really angry."
The bill had sailed through the House before landing in the Senate Judiciary A Committee last week. The contentious debate spilled over into Monday's hearing, where members voted 2-2 to defer the bill, essentially killing it for this session.
Sanctuary cities have become a flashpoint in Louisiana and across the country, identified as communities where police don't automatically ask about witnesses' or suspects' immigration status and are reluctant to hold illegal immigrants for federal officials.
Rob Reardon, director of corrections for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff Department, also testified against the bill, saying the characterization "is a made up term."
"It's inappropriate and unfair," Reardon said. "This is a federal government issue; not a local issue."
It was a theme carried throughout the hearing from the opposition. Supporters testified last week.
"This is a Washington problem," Normand said. "I'm incredulous we're sitting here in Baton Rouge discussing these issues. Why would I waste my limited resources in holding (illegal immigrants) when immigration isn't coming to get them. It's absolute craziness."
Opponents, including the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association, also expressed concern about bearing the cost of what they consider a federal responsibility.
But Hodges, R-Denham Springs, shot back: "I think the greater cost is to the children who are being raped and murdered (by illegal immigrants)."
The bill would have prevented communities tagged as sanctuary cities from receiving state money for capital projects. It designated Attorney General Jeff Landry as the one who could designate a community as a sanctuary city, which also generated concern among senators.
Landry elevated the issue by appearing on the "O'Reilly Factor" advocating for the bill.
He testified in favor while the bill was in the House and during last week's Senate committee hearing, but was out of town Tuesday.
"I am extremely disappointed that the governor and politicians who are aligned with him chose to confer criminal illegals more rights than their constituents, the citizens of Louisiana, enjoy," Landry said in a statement. "Today’s action shows that the governor and his D.C.-style politics jeopardize the safety of our citizens."
The governor had said he supported "the concept" of Hodges' bill, but not the penalties nor making Landry, with whom he has an ongoing feud, the sole arbitor.
"The objections to the attorney general's bill were widespread and crossed party lines," Edwards said in a statement. "His failure to convince the Legislature to support the measure indicates that there is an effort among elected officials to avoid engaging in Washington-style politics.
"My concerns over the bill were known and went unaddressed. At a time when we should be focused on stabilizing our budget and rebuilding our state, these divisive measures don't have the support they need."
An amendment by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, watered down the penalties and removed the attorney general as the arbitor, which Hodges said "gutted" the bill.
"It does gut the bill because the bill doesn't make sense," said Martiny, who voted against the bill even with his amendment. "It's a bad bill."
Follow Greg Hilburn on Twitter @GregHilburn1