Bill introduced to strip state funds from hypothetical 'sanctuary cities' in Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bill introduced to strip state funds from hypothetical 'sanctuary cities' in Arkansas

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 11:26 AM

SEN. GARY STUBBLEFIELD: Sponsor of bill to 'prohibit municipal sanctuary policies.' - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • SEN. GARY STUBBLEFIELD: Sponsor of bill to 'prohibit municipal sanctuary policies.'

State Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) has filed a bill that would prohibit "sanctuary policies" in Arkansas cities and render municipalities ineligible for state funds if they enact such policies.

Broadly speaking, the local policies Senate Bill 14 targets are those that demonstrate tolerance towards undocumented immigrants.

Specifically, the bill says a "sanctuary policy" is an ordinance or law enforcement policy "whether formally enacted or informally adopted" that would do one of the following: limit reporting of immigration status to federal authorities, restrict custody transfers to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, require ICE to obtain a warrant before making a custody transfer, prevent law enforcement officers from asking a person about his or her citizenship/immigration status, or grant illegal immigrants "the right to lawful presence or status within the municipality in violation of federal law."

SB 14 places enforcement authority with the state attorney general. Upon receiving a citizen complaint, the AG's office must issue an opinion stating whether the municipality does indeed have a "sanctuary policy." If that opinion is in the affirmative, the city is cut off from state funds until the AG "certifies that the sanctuary policy is repealed or no longer in effect."

Moreover, all law enforcement officers — state and municipal — must be provided with "written notice of his or her duty to cooperate with state and federal agencies and officials on matters of enforcement of state and federal laws governing immigration."

This looks to be cookie-cutter conservative legislation. A quick Google search shows bills with identical language were introduced in Kansas and Louisiana, and probably other statehouses as well.

Would this affect anything substantially in Arkansas? I'm unaware of any municipality in the state with a "sanctuary policy" as Stubblefield (or whoever actually wrote this legislation) defines it, but I'll be asking around. Certainly, it sends a clear and ominous message to undocumented immigrants and their families. It's been awhile since Arkansas has seen legislation specifically targeting immigrants, but after the 2016 election proved the political utility of xenophobia, it couldn't stay that way for long.

Update, 11:55 a.m.: I spoke briefly to Stubblefield, and he said he's not aware of any cities in the state that would qualify as "sanctuary cities." He said, "this is more of a preemptive bill, to prevent that from happening." He'll be getting back to me later in the day with answers to other questions I have about the legislation.

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