NEW ORLEANS — Sanctuary cities protect undocumented immigrants despite federal immigration laws. Now, a bill is being reintroduced to end these policies.
The 'Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act' would end policies that keep law enforcement from working with federal immigration authorities. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La) is a co-sponsor.
"In this act, we just say 'if you refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement, then you sacrifice your federal funding for other issues'," Cassidy explained.
Sanctuary cities protect undocumented immigrants by allowing them to live more freely with less fear of being questioned on their legal status. The act would withhold certain non-law enforcement federal grant funds from sanctuary cities.
"Here, people have the expectation that when they reach out and ask for help with police or the jail, they'll be treated with the same rights as anyone else," said Chloe Sigal with New Orleans Worker's Center for Racial Justice. "It would create fear and it might make people much more hesitant to report crime, whether it be domestic violence, whether that's anything."
City officials in New Orleans have long disputed that it's a sanctuary city, but in 2017 the Department of Justice identified New Orleans as a one and threatened to withhold millions of dollars in criminal justice grants.
"There are some cities that make no pretense. They are sanctuary cities and they are not going to obey federal law. I think there should be a consequence," Cassidy said.
A spokesperson with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement New Orleans said in a statement: "When local jurisdictions fail to honor immigration detainers and instead choose to release criminal offenders onto the streets it threatens public safety and undermines ICE's ability to accomplish its mission."
In February 2018, a majority of senators voted in support of the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, but it did not receive the 60 votes needed to move forward.
For Sanctuary Cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials, the legislation does provide a safe harbor for illegal immigrants who come forward as victims or witnesses to a crime.