Before a room packed full of silently disapproving immigration supporters, the House State Affairs Committee this morning voted to introduce legislation proposed by Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, to discourage “sanctuary cities” in Idaho by cutting off state sales tax funding to them, and to order that any local law enforcement officer who arrests someone on a misdemeanor or felony charge then also check that person’s immigration status and cooperate with immigration authorities.
“This is an issue that needs addressed with a certain degree of sensitivity, and I’m aware of that,” Chaney told the committee. “Immigrants are some of the most hard-working, family-oriented and God-loving people I’ve ever met. They’re valuable members of the community.” He said he believes the number of undocumented immigrants in the country is the fault of the federal government, not of “people who have come here to make a better life.”
“All of that having been said, not everyone who comes into the country comes in with the best intentions,” he said. “Some are good … some are bad, but we don’t really know who’s who. That’s up to the federal government to sort that out. But we won’t really know unless we enforce our laws. … Our laws mean something, our borders mean something, and our safety and security mean something.”
Chaney’s bill, which he co-wrote with Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, would forbid local law enforcement officers from arresting or rounding up people solely for immigration violations. “It would only allow detentions where the individual has violated some other provision of state law as a misdemeanor or felony,” he said. But similar moves in other states have raised concerns about profiling, and targeting of immigrants on minor offenses to determine their immigration status.
Chaney said he was prompted to act because, “With the new emphasis on enforcement at the federal level, there may be a new initiative among certain local governments to move forward.” He said he believes President Trump’s executive order to ban sanctuary cities “may be on precarious legal footing.” He also requested that an emergency clause be added to his bill, to make it effective as soon as it’s signed into law. The committee agreed. There was one dissenting vote, from Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer. The vote to introduce the bill today clears the way for a full hearing; later today, when the bill is formally read across the desk for introduction in the house, it’ll be assigned a bill number and posted on the Legislature’s website.
Kathy Griesmyer, policy director for the Idaho ACLU, said, “Immigration is a very hot-button issue right now, certainly with the executive orders. … We wanted to make sure that folks are here to know what our elected officials are up to. We’re here to watch.”
Idaho currently has no sanctuary cities, and law enforcement officers in the state already routinely comply with federal immigration orders.
Chaney said he didn’t necessarily intend to change any current practices in Idaho. “I didn’t vet it through law enforcement,” he acknowledged. But, he said, “This isn’t to change any current practices, as far as I’m aware of. The idea is not to see ordinances passed in violation of the act. While Idaho is a wonderful place for refugees,” he said, he doesn’t want the state to attract undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes and face deportation. “We don’t want to become a magnet,” he said.
Chaney, 35, is a second-term representative and a communications consultant from Caldwell.