Louisiana Lawmakers Approve Migrant Arrest Bill, Awaits Governor’s Signature

A Louisiana bill empowering state and local law enforcement to arrest and jail people who entered the U.S. illegally received approval from lawmakers Wednesday and is likely to soon be on the governor’s desk.

Amid national disputes between Republican states and Democratic President Joe Biden over border enforcement, several GOP-led states have passed measures pushing deeper into migrant enforcement. However, laws similar to Louisiana’s legislation — in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas — are facing legal challenges.

Texas was briefly allowed to enforce its migrant enforcement law in March while legal battles ensued. During that period, no arrests were reported, revealing that many sheriffs were unprepared or unwilling to enforce it. The law remains on hold by a federal appeals court panel, which heard arguments in April. A ruling is pending.

Louisiana’s bill, like the Texas law, seeks to expand the authority of state and local law enforcement. The bill would create the crime of “illegal entry or reentry” into Louisiana, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine for a first offense, and up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine for a second offense.

Sen. Valarie Hodges, the Republican sponsoring the bill, said it would “start the deportation process.” Currently, immigration enforcement regarding illegal entry and deportations is the exclusive domain of federal law enforcement.

Proponents argue the legislation is needed to protect U.S. citizens, accusing the Biden administration of neglecting immigration enforcement responsibilities. Opponents, including the Biden administration, argue the law encroaches on federal authority, is unconstitutional, and fuels negative rhetoric toward migrants.

Nationwide, Republican legislatures have advanced tougher immigration enforcement measures. The Oklahoma House passed a bill prohibiting state revenue from being used to provide benefits to those living in the state illegally. Tennessee recently signed a law requiring state law enforcement agencies to communicate with federal immigration authorities if they discover people in the country illegally. Similar measures are scheduled to take effect in Oklahoma and Iowa in July.

Louisiana’s bill passed in the House on Wednesday along party lines, after only three minutes of floor discussion. The bill will return to the GOP-dominated Senate to concur on minor amendments. If the Senate concurs, the bill will head to Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk. Landry, an outspoken supporter of state involvement in migrant law enforcement, is expected to sign it.

The bill would take effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Texas law or if the U.S. Constitution is amended to increase local border enforcement authority, according to the legislation.

Although Louisiana does not border Mexico, conservative leadership has pushed bills targeting migrants suspected of entering the country illegally. Earlier this week, Louisiana lawmakers approved a bill that would ban sanctuary city policies, requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials unless ordered otherwise by a court.