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Bill Banning Idaho Sanctuary Cities Moves Forward Despite Opposition from Democrats


- Plummer Democratic Rep. Paulette Jordan (standing) spoke about her opposition to Caldwell Republican Rep. Greg Chaney's bill at an ACLU activist training session. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Plummer Democratic Rep. Paulette Jordan (standing) spoke about her opposition to Caldwell Republican Rep. Greg Chaney's bill at an ACLU activist training session.
ACLU-Idaho's Feb. 20 activist training session had to be moved. The House Minority Caucus room was too small, so dozens of people moved en masse to EW240 in the basement, where, minutes earlier, many of the future activists had listened to the House State Affairs Committee agree to introduce Rep. Greg Chaney's controversial bill banning sanctuary cities.

"It's a proactive prohibition against the sorts of policies that intentionally seek to obstruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement," Chaney (R-Caldwell) said during the hearing.

The object, he said, was for Idaho not to stand in the way of President Donald Trump's future actions on immigration. Trump has proposed building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, banning refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and, according to reports, considered mobilizing the Army National Guard in 11 states to perform immigration operations.

A previous version of Chaney's bill, HB 76, surfaced in late January. It would have denied sales tax dollars to so-called sanctuary cities and empowered law enforcement to alert ICE to the presence of undocumented immigrants within 48 hours of their detainment. The current version of the bill maintains many of the same planks, but has reduced the amount of sales tax funds withheld from sanctuary cities from 100 percent to 50 percent.

The changes to the bill were made after Chaney said he consulted with a number of groups, including the United Dairymen of Idaho, which had voiced opposition to the bill, saying it would damage Idaho dairy farmers' relationships with their workforce—much of which comprises migrant labor. Chaney said the changes to the bill would "allow them to remain neutral" to his proposed legislation.

"This is splitting the baby," he said.

Sanctuary cities are municipalities that do not comply with federal immigration authorities by refusing to honor detainer requests or provide information about undocumented immigrants that are known to or in the custody of law enforcement. Because undocumented presence in the U.S. is a civil violation, compliance with ICE is voluntary. Chaney's bill would compel cities and counties to comply.

The bill was opposed in committee by Rep. Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer), who said she "felt the same thing" about the new version of the bill that she did about the original—that it was a solution in search of a problem.

"I don't see why this is necessary," she said.

Jordan and Rep. Elaine Smith (D-Pocatello) were the only two members of the House State Affairs Committee to vote against introducing the new bill, which will get a full public hearing at an as yet undetermined time and location.

Afterward, many who had seen or listened to the proceedings said if the bill were made law, it would drive immigrants—even documented immigrants—underground. Immigrants would, they said, stop going to work and reporting crimes.

Rachel Sandoval-Gonzales, a teacher at Nampa High School, said these immigrant populations would suffer if the public doesn't speak out against Chaney's proposed legislation.

"I'm not afraid for myself—I can speak out about these things," she said. "I'm afraid for those who can't."

The approximately 45 activist training attendees walked through talking points against the bill outlined by ACLU-Idaho and discussed its potential negative impacts on Idaho. They included racial profiling by law enforcement, the status and cost to the state of children left in limbo because one or more of their parents have been deported, and possible First Amendment violations in the event that an entire city or county is denied sales tax revenue because a "rogue mayor" spoke out against Trump's immigration policies.

Before leaving midway through the meeting, Jordan told the crowd Chaney's bill runs against Idaho values.

"His system—his beliefs—don't belong here," she said.