Republicans tried and failed to pass a House bill in February to make public officials personally responsible for the crimes committed by undocumented residents in sanctuary cities.
As we told you they would Tuesday, Senate Republicans will try to make crime victims whole by instead suing the municipality, not the policymakers.
Senate Bill 281 will be heard Monday afternoon by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If the taxpayers foot the bill, they will put pressure on public officials to do a better job of helping federal agencies enforce immigration laws, said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, one of the bill’s sponsors.
The legislation also could allow the state to withhold some funding from cities deemed to be uncooperative with immigration enforcement laws, similar to what the Trump administration threatened last week.
The purpose of the bill is to be preventative and encourage cooperation, Neville said.
“My hope is that we don’t have to sue anybody,” he said.
The often-cited example is releasing noncitizen prisoners from local lockups, before immigration officials can pick them up and deport them. The bill doesn’t yet have a fiscal analysis of how much it might cost taxpayers to house inmates awaiting federal pickup or to build additional cells, however.
Neville said what gets lost in the immigration debate is the crime victims, and that’s what the bill is out to fix.
Opponents see it as an attempt to demean undocumented residents and pressure law-enforcement toward profiling or “stop and frisk” policies against suspected immigrants to prove their citizenship.
The previous bill would have allowed public officials to be individually sued or arrested over sanctuary-city policies. The debate went for hours in February, before the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed it on a 6-3 party-line vote.
Despite the changes in the Senate version, the bill still has little chance of becoming law. Democrats hold a 37-28 majority in the House, but, moreover, the bill would certainly be assigned back to the same committee that killed it two months ago.
House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee chairman Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, said Wednesday afternoon he hadn’t see the newest version of the bill, but it would have to make vast improvements over the House version to be taken seriously.
Opponents argued that the bill was an anti-immigrant political ploy that incorrectly suggests undocumented residents are more prone to commit crimes.
The New York Times reported in January:
Analyses of census data from 1980 through 2010 show that among men ages 18 to 49, immigrants were one-half to one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as those born in the United States. Across all ages and sexes, about 7 percent of the nation’s population are noncitizens, while figures from the Justice Department show that about 5 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons are noncitizens.
Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, the bill’s House sponsor, said the statistics are irrelevant.
“The point is that they’re preventable crimes,” he said. “… We should not be importing crime. That’s what happens when we do attract criminal aliens to Colorado with sanctuary city policies.”
Neville said the crime rate of noncitizens misses the policy issue.
“I think the issue is what are our cities and counties doing to make sure that they’re within compliance of federal law in protecting their own citizens,” he said.
Co-sponsor Vicki Marble of Fort Collins cited a Department of Justice report that indicated Colorado spends $145 million a year incarcerating undocumented immigrants.
“It’s quite a revolving door,” she said.
Neville said that when local communities fail to do all that’s required in enforcing laws, they increase the risk to residents.
“We’ve increased risk and we’ve increased cost, and then you get to the third piece where someone is actually hurt by those policies,” Neville said.