AUGUSTA – State lawmakers are considering how local and state law enforcement works with federal immigration authorities. The two bills discussed Wednesday at a public hearing are on opposite sides of the issue.
One of two immigration bills seeks to toughen immigration law, requiring local authorities to enforce federal immigration law.
The bill’s sponsor spoke about crimes in Portland, which he called a “sanctuary city,” that he said were committed by non-citizens.
“The murderers of these two men had lengthy criminal rap sheets, but because they committed their crimes in Portland, they were never reported to federal immigration authorities,” said Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R – Bradley.
Another bill seeks to protect immigrants and asylum seekers. It would prohibit law enforcement from stopping, interrogating, and detaining a person solely for immigration enforcement purposes.
That bill’s sponsor did not wish to go on camera, but claims his bill would make immigrants feel safer.
“It seems strange to me that we are in a time where we are equating criminal activity with immigration status,” said Rep. Craig Hickman, during his testimony. He said that ends up, “resulting in immigrant community members being afraid to approach police when they are victims and witnesses to crimes.”
The bill requiring compliance with federal immigration police would fine a municipality that doesn’t follow the policy $500 a day. Rep. Lockman said it was for public safety.
“These two men would be alive today if it were not for Portland’s ordinance…we’re welcoming to people who play by the rules, but if you’re an illegal immigrant you have no right to be here,” said Rep. Lockman.
His bill has failed in the state legislature before. Some local advocacy groups oppose it saying it spreads hate and fear, and question the groups supporting it.
“The only people showing up to support it were neo-Nazis,” said Mike Tipping, the Communications Director for Maine People’s Alliance.
Maine People’s Alliance supports Rep. Hickman’s bill.
“We’re making sure that when local police are working with immigrants…they can do their job and they’re not forced to be immigration agents,” said Rep. Hickman.