Legislative Backlash Against Sanctuary Policies

Since the 2016 general election there has been a lot of discussion around immigration policies. Much of the narrative has revolved around a growing number of governments at the State or local level adopting “sanctuary policies”, but for every action there is a reaction.

A backlash against policies of shielding residents who are unlawfully present within a given jurisdiction is developing across the country. The Federal Department of Justice has issued subpoenas to multiple States, counties, and cities across the country that have taken such a stance on immigration since the beginning of 2018. In the case of California, it has go so far as to initiate lawsuits which challenge the constitutionality of the laws it has adopted to this end. These events are widely covered, but in the rush to report on Federal activities the multiple States which are moving in the opposite direction have been largely glossed over.

There are bills advancing through the legislatures of several battleground states which would expressly forbid, sometimes as a felony offense, adoption of policies with conflict with Federal immigration authority.

In Virginia, HB1257 would add a one-sentence law to the books which states “No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” This bill, introduced January 10th of 2018, was passed by the House on February 13th in a 51/49 vote and in the Senate 21/18 on March 6th. It is currently back in the House for final approval.

Tennessee Sanctuary City Votes.png

Tennessee is taking a different approach with more teeth: HB2552 and SB2578 , both introduced on February 1st, would make “adoption of an ordinance or resolution that expressly conflicts with state or federal law relative to immigration” a Class E felony for “each member of the local governmental body who voted in the affirmative”, though punishable only be a fine. The House version of this bill is moving closer to a full vote.

Florida is also debating prohibiting sanctuary policies. House Bill 9, a.k.a the “Rule of Law Adherence Act”, is a 21 page proposal to add an entire new chapter to the Florida Statutes which “requires state & local governmental agencies to comply with & support enforcement of federal immigration law”. This piece of legislation was introduced late last August and passed by the House mid-January.

In some other States the process has moved much slower, such as in the case of Iowa which introduced several bills early in 2017 to prohibit restriction of Federal immigration authorities acting within its borders by any government within it. Of these, Senate File 481 has moved the farthest, having been passed thereby last April in a 32/15 vote. The House committee to which it was assigned recommended passage on January 31st of this year but a vote has yet to be scheduled.

Everyone should be aware of potential and actual law changes which affect our communities, and such changes are constantly advancing under the radar as the national discussion is focused elsewhere. An informed populace is mandatory for effective civic engagement and responsive government. Make sure you’re in the know so your voice can be heard!