AUGUSTA – A majority of legislators on the Maine Judiciary Committee voted “Ought Not to Pass” on anti-immigrant bill that would force local law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents. The committee voted 7-3 against LD 1833, sponsored by Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst). The ACLU of Maine was joined by law enforcement, legal experts and faith leaders in testifying against the bill.
“So-called ‘anti-sanctuary city’ bills are bad for Maine,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine. “They make immigrants feel scared and unwelcome. They compromise the ability of law enforcement to do their jobs. And they undermine the Constitution by promoting racial profiling and unlawful detention.”
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 force local law enforcement to act like federal immigration agents. And it would charge fees of $500 a day ($182,500 a year) to towns and cities that choose 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 attempts 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 (ICE) – would take away valuable resources that could otherwise be used on pressing issues like responding to emergencies.
The requirements of LD 1833 would also subject 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 should reject this bill just as it rejected an identical bill last year.”
Over 760 Mainers have signed a petition urging legislators to reject the bill, which now goes to the Maine House of Representatives.