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Michigan House panel passes legislation prohibiting sanctuary cities

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    Don Bisdorf carried a sign at a rally outside a federal courthouse in Detroit.

LANSING, Mich. >> Legislation passed in a Michigan House committee aims to prohibit cities from becoming “sanctuary cities” that don’t cooperate with immigration authorities and punish those that do.

The House Local Government Committee sent bills to the full House that would prohibit cities and counties from becoming sanctuary cities and force them to cooperate with federal officials on matters concerning immigration. Additionally, it would render any law or ordinance that violates the act unenforceable.

Tense testimony was given during a committee meeting last week about why the legislation was wrong and could lead to racial profiling, litigation against police officers and departments, and higher costs. No one testified in favor of the bills.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said the legislation seeks to address a problem that doesn’t exist and is anti-American.

“We have an outstanding police department in Ann Arbor, and for years AAPD has worked to promote relationships of trust among our immigrant neighbors and by gutting these relationships these bills will hamstring our ability to protect and serve, violent crime will go unreported, violent criminals they will go free,” Taylor said. “The short of it is this, I oppose these measures because they are at odds with core American values and they threaten public safety.”

Taylor said the bills would make Michigan a “show me your papers” state.

Republican State Rep. Jim Runestad of White Lake rejected that claim.

“No law enforcement is permitted to walk up to an individual and say show me you papers. It’s preposterous, something out of a movie from the ’40s,” Runestad said. “The reality is you have to be stopped for something else, and then if you’ve committed a crime, and you’ve served your time in jail or prison, then they have the option to respond to the ICE detainer or not.”

Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, which represents over 522 cities, villages and urban townships, also testified in opposition.

“From a public perspective, we have had three communities, roughly three communities in Michigan that have seen this label applied to them,” he said.

Hackbarth said for more than 10 years the communities have had rules or policies on the books dealing with immigration — for example, a police officer would not ask for legal status at a traffic stop — and they have not had any problems. He also said the legislation is a poorly-crafted solution in search of a problem.

Cedar Lake Republican state Rep. James Lower, committee chairman, said the testimony was emotionally charged, but he believes it is common sense legislation. He said lawyers who have looked at the bills do not see problems of racial profiling or litigation.

“We frankly disagree with those,” Lower said. “We’ve had many, many attorneys, you know how the legislative process works, review the legislation to make sure that wasn’t an issue. It simply wasn’t an issue.”

The bills were voted 7-4 along party lines out of committee, with all amendments proposed by Democratic members failing. It now goes to the full House but it is still to be determined on whether it will come up for a vote next week. It may not be taken up until after lawmakers come back from summer break.

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