Louisiana Lawmakers Advance Bill Empowering Local Authorities To Arrest Undocumented Migrants

The Louisiana House of Representatives gave its stamp of approval to a bill on Wednesday that would allow state and local law enforcement to arrest and jail individuals who entered the United States illegally. The measure which is similar to a controversial Texas law passed the Republican-dominated chamber in a 74-23 vote and will now return to the Senate for concurrence before likely landing on the desk of Gov. Jeff Landry (R).

Under Senate Bill 388 sponsored by Sen. Valarie Hodges (R) the crime of “illegal entry or reentry” into Louisiana would be established carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $4000 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat violators could face up to two years of incarceration and a $10000 fine.

Supporters of the legislation argue that it is needed to protect U.S. citizens accusing President Joe Biden of neglecting his duty to enforce immigration laws. But critics maintain that the bill is unconstitutional will not enhance public safety and will fuel negative and false rhetoric against migrants.

The Biden administration has denounced similar laws in other states as an illegal encroachment on federal authority over immigration enforcement. Laws akin to Louisiana’s proposal are currently facing legal challenges in Iowa Oklahoma and Texas.

If signed into law by Gov. Landry the Louisiana measure would take effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Texas law or if the Constitution is amended to expand local border enforcement authority. The bill’s advancement comes amid a growing list of Republican-led states seeking to push deeper into migrant enforcement amid ongoing disputes with the Democratic president over border security.