Ohio bill banning sanctuary cities is 'extreme' and unconstitutional, ACLU of Ohio says

Posted at 1:23 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 18:58:17-05

CINCINNATI -- A bill to ban sanctuary cities is "extreme" and unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said Tuesday.

Mike Brickner, senior policy director at the ACLU of Ohio, also said the proposal would make Ohio less safe "by pitting law enforcement against immigrant communities."

"Immigration enforcement is a federal issue, not a local or state one, and federal law does not require cities to help with immigration enforcement," Brickner said. "This bill would attempt to punish localities and city officials for not violating constitutional rights."

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, announced the measure Monday defining and outlawing sanctuary jurisdictions and declaring sanctuary policies contrary to federal law and state interests.

Their move came less than a week after Cincinnati's City Council symbolically declared Cincinnati a "sanctuary city." Mayor John Cranley said city government isn't violating any federal laws and said Cincinnati "has been for years, and will remain, a 'sanctuary city.'"

The term currently has no legal definition, but it's often a label used for cities that refuse to turn over individuals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or cities that just have welcoming resources or policies in place for immigrants.

The current Cincinnati Police Department policy states that "CPD officers will not enforce immigration laws. However, if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers request assistance from a CPD officer in detaining a subject, the officer will provide assistance with the approval of a supervisor."

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil also said he'd continue continue to detain undocumented inmates at the request of federal immigration authorities. Cincinnati has no jail of its own, so its inmates are held at the Downtown jail Neil's office operates.

One of the largest provisions in the Mandel-backed proposal could have city officials who designate their cities as a sanctuary city charged with a fourth-degree felony were a crime to be committed by an undocumented immigrant. The charge carries up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Mandel did not say whether the charges would be implemented retroactively, though it is unlikely, Keller said.

At the same time, the proposed bill prohibits the establishment of new sanctuary cities, so it’s unclear how exactly officials would be charged if not retroactively.

Civil charges could also be filed against sanctuary cities and their elected officials if a citizen believes a crime was committed against them by an undocumented immigrant residing in a sanctuary city. Damages against a city or an official could be claimed at up to $1 million.