Louisiana AG: New Orleans a 'magnet' for illegal immigrants

Louisiana’s chief legal officer blasted leaders of the state's biggest city Tuesday on Capitol Hill, saying New Orleans' insistence on being a so-called “sanctuary city” serves as a "magnet" for illegal immigrants and contributes to crime and rising taxes.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said he believed New Orleans’ policies were not in compliance with federal law and somewhat rhetorically asked members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security why “being in the United States illegally” was “not a deportable offense.”

“All that does is lead to those people committing additional crimes and thinking it’s okay to break the law,” Landry said.

Landry noted as an example the death of St. John the Baptist Parish Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin on Aug. 28 after a bus driven by an illegal immigrant slammed into Chauvin and two other firefighters who were attending to a separate traffic accident. A Honduran immigrant who did not have a driver’s license and had received five previous citations for driving without a license – plus other traffic violations – was charged in the incident.

Zach Butterworth, the executive counsel and director of federal affairs for New Orleans’ mayor, disputed the “sanctuary city” label and said public safety was officials’ top priority. Butterworth emphasized the importance of all residents being able to report crimes without fear of detainment or deportation, using the example of a Hispanic male who was robbed at gunpoint but still contacted the police. He did not specify if the man was an illegal immigrant.

The policies at the heart of the New Orleans debate came into effect as a result of a study on alleged police misconduct, according to U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who testified on Tuesday.

The New Orleans Police Department initially issued guidelines that restricted contact with immigration officials, though Gupta said in written testimony that officials raised concerns the guidelines conflicted with federal law. That section of the NOPD policy was recently revised.

But Landry said the changes don’t go far enough.

“It was both a ‘don’t ask and don’t tell,’” he said. “They seem to have remedied the ‘don’t tell’ portion of the policies, but it doesn’t seem like they’ve made changes in the ‘don’t ask’ portion.”