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Louisiana's "Sanctuary City" Conflict Intensifies

Louisiana's internal battle over "sanctuary cities" intensified with the passing of House Bill 1148 in the state House of Representatives last week. The Republican-backed bill would prevent cities like Lafayette and New Orleans from receiving critical construction funds from the state—putting several major projects in limbo.

What's a "sanctuary city?"

Louisiana lawmakers have been butting heads over the state sanctuary cities for months now. Police officers in these cities have been directed not to cooperate with federal immigration policy, effectively forbidding officers from asking residents what their immigration status is. In doing so, these cities report that law enforcement's relationship with residents have improved and overall public safety has stabilized.

The Conservative Response

The sanctuary city policing policy, however, has angered Republican lawmakers who insist that allowing illegal immigrants to reside in Louisiana not only encourages undocumented residents to stay but poses a distinct threat to all citizens. In response, they've crafted House Bill 1148 to punish the cities by withholding development funds.

"We're setting a pretty low bar here. All we are saying is just follow federal law," Said one of the bill's sponsors, Valarie Hodges. "The city of New Orleans, the cities of Louisiana, need to be kept safe." If the bill becomes law, it would cast doubt on key New Orleans construction projects, including at the Port of New Orleans and the Superdome, along with local road and school projects.

"Raiding Churches and Markets"

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu had to clarify his city's stance on federal immigration enforcement due to the bill, stating that opposing lawmakers misunderstand the policy. "NOPD will always work with federal immigration officials when there is a criminal warrant or following any crime. NOPD's policy means we are going after violent criminals," Landrieu wrote in a statement, "not raiding churches and markets to apprehend people for civil immigration violations."

Currently, there is a mixed response to House Bill 1148—not even Governor John Bel Edwards, who believes in the "concept" of the bill, has said the current proposal is entirely appropriate. The bill is currently awaiting consideration by the state Senate.

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