LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A proposal to prohibit Arkansas cities from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities failed before a House committee on Monday after the state’s Republican governor said he wanted the legislation changed to ensure it wouldn’t open the door to racial profiling.
The Senate-backed bill to prohibit “sanctuary” cities and cut off their funding failed before the House City, County and Local Affairs Committee on a 9-5 vote, one vote shy of the 10 needed to advance to the full House for a vote. With lawmakers hoping to wrap up this year’s session by Wednesday, the sponsor of the measure said it’s dead.
The Arkansas Municipal League, which opposed the measure, has said it doesn’t know of any sanctuary cities in the state or any cities moving toward adopting such policies. The Republican proponents of the bill said the measure was needed to ensure cities comply with federal law.
“This is not a solution looking for a problem,” Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield, the bill’s sponsor, told the panel before the vote. “This is to ward off what is happening all over our country.”
Republicans in several states have enacted bans on sanctuary cities, which have been targeted by President Donald Trump. Virginia’s Democratic governor last month vetoed a similar bill, and another bill is pending before Florida lawmakers.
Under Arkansas’ bill, a city would have been ineligible for discretionary funds administered by the state if the attorney general found it was a sanctuary city. The bill also would have prohibited cities from preventing local law enforcement from asking people about their citizenship or immigration status.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said earlier Monday he was generally supportive of the measure and opposed sanctuary cities. But Hutchinson said he’d asked the bill’s sponsor to amend the measure to require probable cause before law enforcement asked about citizenship or immigration status.
“Without this amendment, there is too much opportunity for racial profiling,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. Stubblefield, however, didn’t change the measure and said he believed it had sufficient protections against profiling.
Advocates in Arkansas said the defeated bill would have created mistrust between the immigrant community and law enforcement.
“Laws like this, because they are broad, they are vague and they are not clear, only exposes us to lawsuits, only exposes us to continued stereotypes of Arkansas being racist and only is going to hurt what really could be an opportunity for Arkansas to achieve a greater potential,” Mireya Reith, founding executive director of Arkansas United, an immigrant advocacy group, told the panel before the vote.