Committee moves Maine ‘sanctuary state’ bill forward to votes in Maine House

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling (left), Rep. Craig Hickman (center), Speaker Sara Gideon (right).

AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee late yesterday afternoon voted to advance a bill that would implement sanctuary state laws related to how Maine law enforcement agencies and officials should work, or not work, with federal immigration agencies.

The bill, L.D. 1589, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hickman (D – Winthrop) had a public hearing for supporters and opponents last Tuesday, and was scheduled for a work session yesterday.

Unlike most bills, which receive either a unanimous report of support or disapproval, or a split report where some committee members support or oppose a bill, L.D. 1589 will go to the Maine House for votes with a report that is split three ways.

Because the views of members of the Judiciary Committee varied in three different directions, L.D. 1589 will go out to the House with two versions of the bill with some level of support and one that opposes the bill, put forward by Republicans.

One report will be “Ought To Pass As Amended” and will change the bill by studying the issue for future consideration and implementation.

A second report will be “Ought To Pass” which means the bill would pass as it was written.

A third report, “Ought Not To Pass” would kill the bill outright. That report is the one supported by Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.

At the public hearing last week, the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Craig Hickman (D – Winthrop) tried to frame much of his testimony in support of his bill around Maine as a “free state” and wanting all people, even those who may not be here through a legal process, to be safe.

READ ALSO: Hearing on ‘sanctuary state’ bill sparks emotional debate in Augusta

But along with his comments attempting to strike a positive tone, Rep. Hickman said that the federal agency in charge of enforcing America’s immigration laws, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is “corrupt” and local law enforcement working with them any more than is absolutely required under federal law amounts to modern day ‘slave-catching.’

The Maine Chiefs of Police Association testified against Rep. Hickman’s bill, with Robert S. Howe testifying on behalf of that association saying, “Our police departments certainly will and do assist federal officials whenever they seek our help in dealing with someone who poses a threat to that safety and welfare, but we should not be mandated to expend resources in ways that do not serve to protect our citizens from a genuine threat to their safety. Nor should we be prohibited from protecting our citizens’ safety, regardless of the immigration status of suspects.”

The bill specifically lays out language that limits how long someone can be held for violation of federal immigration law, and says that a law enforcement agency may not “use agency or department money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, stop, arrest or search a person solely for immigration enforcement purposes,” except in the narrow instances that the law provides for in the following subsection.

The bill also forbids a host of other actions by law enforcement, some are listed below:

-Local law enforcement officials forbidden to provide federal law enforcement officials the release date of a person in custody.

-Local law enforcement officials would be forbidden to provide federal law enforcement personal information about a person wanted for immigration violations.

-Local law enforcement would be forbidden to act as interpreters for federal immigration officials.

-Local law enforcement agencies would be forbidden to provide office space or use of facilities to federal officials for most immigration inquiries or detention.

The bill makes other changes to state law around non-citizens and law enforcement as well.

According to one analysis of the bill, non-citizens in the state of Maine would actually receive more protection than American citizens, because the law would prohibit law enforcement from releasing mug shots and personal information about a non-citizen who was arrested.

READ ALSO: Democrat bill would make Maine a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants

With the crisis at the southern border of the United States and Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling calling for more non-citizens to be sent to his city, the bill has seen a surge in public interest and, according to most online polls, disapproval among Maine people.

READ ALSO: Strimling calls for more illegal immigrants to Portland in response to President Trump’s tweets

Along with Rep. Hickman, cosponsors of the bill are as follows:

Representative Christopher Babbidge (D – Kennebunk)
Senator Shenna Bellows of (D – Kennebec)
Representative Barbara Cardone (D – Bangor)
Representative Kristen Cloutier (D – Lewiston)
Representative Thom Harnett of (D – Gardiner)
Senator David Miramant (D – Knox)
Representative Victoria Morales (D – South Portland)
Representative Lois Reckitt (D – South Portland)
Representative Rachel Talbot Ross (D – Portland)

You can read the full text of the bill by clicking here.

READ ALSO: On “sanctuary state” bill, Janet Mills’ record suggests she’s opposite LePage

While Governor Janet Mills has not taken an official position on the bill, a Maine Examiner analysis of her public statements and positions as Attorney General indicate she is likely to be opposite Gov. Paul LePage, who ended Maine’s ‘sanctuary state’ status and opposed bills such as L.D. 1589.

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