By Robert McClendon,
on March 01, 2016 at 4:48 PM, updated March 01, 2016 at 6:11 PM

A bill filed for the spring session of the Legislature is aimed at cutting off state funding to cities that adopt immigrant-friendly "sanctuary cities" policies, like those now enforced in New Orleans.

House Bill 151 would make it illegal for cities to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcers and penalize those that do by blacklisting them from state appropriations and grants.

If passed, the legislation could have grave implications for the city of New Orleans, which recently adopted a policy forbidding its police officers from enforcing federal immigration laws. The city relies heavily on state funding, which it often uses to leverage even more lucrative federal grants.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, said it is meant to prevent cities from "harboring criminals."

"Local enforcement agencies who adopt a policy to protect criminals, we are not going to give you funding," she said.

Hodges cited the 2015 case of a woman who was killed in San Francisco, allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant who had recently been released from jail after a drug arrest.

Prior to letting him free, San Francisco officials did not notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who wanted to deport the man. San Francisco's "sanctuary city" ordinance prohibits the sheriff from complying with "immigration detainers," requests to hold in jail people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Hodges' bill would prohibit similar policies in Louisiana, some of which are already in place.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman hasn't been complying with immigration detainers since 2013, a policy change brought on by a federal lawsuit. The complaint was filed on behalf of two men held in jail at ICE's request for months after their sentences had expired.

Hodges said her bill targets only cities who refuse to hand over "criminals," but the language of her proposal is sweeping.

The bill defines a "sanctuary policy" as any set of rules that:

*Limits government employees from "communicating or cooperating with federal agencies or officials to verify or report the immigration status of any alien."
*Restricts compliance with ICE detainers or "or other requests."
*Requires ICE to get a warrant or demonstrate probable cause before local authorities comply with detainers or other requests.
*Prevents law enforcement officers from asking any individual about citizenship.

The New Orleans Police Department's newly adopted policy does all those things.

Jolene Elberth, of the Congress of Day Laborers, an immigrant rights group, said the bill seems aimed directly at New Orleans, as some of its provisions outlaw policy language found nearly word for word in the city's policy. The bill was also filed the day after the city released its the new rules.

Hodges said she filed the bill at the request of Attorney General Jeff Landry and worked with another state's attorney general on the legislation.

Tied up in tense budget negotiations Tuesday (March 1), Hodges was not available for a full interview on the subject.

Landry said in a statement that he supported Hodge's bill.

"The public safety of our State's citizens is a top priority for me and our office. ... We must end sanctuary cities and ensure no one is above the law."