Senate Follows House in Voting Down Bill That Would Force Local Police to Act as Immigration Agents

 

Augusta – The Maine Senate today voted against a so-called “anti-sanctuary city” bill that would have forced local police to participate in federal immigration enforcement. A bipartisan majority in the Senate voted 21-14 against LD 1833, sponsored by Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst). The House voted against the bill earlier this month.

“LD 1833 was a clear attempt to draft Maine’s police forces into President Trump’s deportation army,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine. “Thankfully, legislators on both sides of the aisle recognized the importance of letting the police do their jobs.”

LD 1833 is virtually identical to LD 366, which was rejected during the first regular session of the 128th Legislature. Like other “anti-sanctuary city” bills around the country, it would have forced local law enforcement to act like federal immigration agents. And it would have charged fees of $500 a day ($182,500 a year) to towns and cities that chose not to do so. 

While the federal government cannot require local law enforcement to engage in federal immigration enforcement, President Trump has called for police officers and sheriffs’ departments around the country to help enforce his anti-immigrant agenda. Like other so-called “anti-sanctuary” bills introduced around the nation, LD 1833 attempted to capitalize on this anti-immigrant fervor.  

But as law enforcement agents around the country have pointed out, local law enforcement officers are not trained as immigration agents and can't be expected to interpret very complicated immigration laws. Forcing local law enforcement to engage in immigration enforcement – including detaining people indefinitely under orders from Immigration and Customs Enforcement– would take away valuable resources that could otherwise be used on pressing issues like responding to emergencies.

The requirements of LD 1833 would also have subjected local governments to potential legal battles, by pushing them to engage in unconstitutional behavior such as racial profiling and unlawful detention.

“Local governments should not be forced to choose between their budgets and the safety and constitutional rights of their residents,” said Amarasingham. “The legislature was right to reject this bill.”

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