Louisiana Legislature Rejects Anti-Immigrant Agenda

BATON ROUGE, May 31, 2017—Immigrant workers, families, and other members of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) celebrated the defeat on Tuesday of three anti-immigrant bills in the Louisiana State Legislature, including two aimed at attacking New Orleans’ sanctuary city policies.

“The defeat of these bills is a defeat for racism and xenophobia,” said Marilo Martinez, a member of NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers. “When the people—black, white, brown—come together, we have the power to make our communities what we want them to be.”

The Senate Judiciary B committee rejected a bill Tuesday from Republican Rep. Valarie Hodges that would have prevented cities with so-called “sanctuary” policies from receiving state grants, and penalized them up to $5,000 per day.

The Senate Judiciary A committee also rejected two anti-immigrant bills: HB525, which sought to create liability for law enforcement agencies with no-detainer policies, and HB270, which would have continued to restrict the fundamental right to marriage for some immigrants.

NOWCRJ was part of a coalition of over 30 community organizations that attended the Judiciary B meeting to oppose HB676, including faith leaders, legal experts, law enforcement representatives, and direct service providers.

Though Attorney General Jeff Landry had backed the proposal, Sen. J.P. Morrell noted that no law enforcement officers had contacted the committee to support of the bill, but that several law enforcement officials—including New Orleans police superintendent Michael Harrison and Michael Ranatza, Executive Director of the Sheriffs’ Association—attended the hearing specifically to oppose the bill.

When pressed by members of the committee, the bill’s author, Rep. Valarie Hodges, said that she was “not sure” if Louisiana has any sanctuary cities. However, Rep. Hodges had previously stated that law enforcement officials would know to question individuals about immigration status based on their perceived levels of English proficiency.

Senator Karen Carter Peterson remarked, “I’m treated a certain way not because of my mind or my competence, but because of the way I look.” She asked committee attendees to “close your eyes and remember the golden rule—think of people as people.”

After years of documented racial profiling abuses triggered a federal consent decree, the New Orleans Police Department maintains an anti-bias policy, which prohibits officers from asking victims, witnesses, and suspects about their immigration status.

Chloe Sigal, Immigrant Justice Organizer at NOWCRJ, said: “Today, Louisiana took an important step away from the dead-end of framing incarceration and deportation as the solutions to our state’s problems. We must continue down this path by passing the criminal justice reform bills.”

CONTACT: Sima Atri, NOWCRJ Staff Attorney – 504-264-4209, satri@nowcrj.org