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North Dakota lawmakers pass bill banning immigrant 'sanctuary' cities

Forum News Service could not find evidence that any jurisdiction in North Dakota has adopted a policy to limit coordination with immigration officials.

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People participate in a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban, in New York City, U.S. January 29, 2017.
REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

BISMARCK โ€” North Dakota legislators have approved legislation to prohibit local governments from establishing policies that hinder cooperation with immigration officials.

The Republican-dominated Senate voted 40-4 along party lines on Friday, March 31, to pass House Bill 1155, sponsored by Rep. Matt Heilman, R-Bismarck. The House passed the legislation in January.

The one-page bill would bar the state, cities, counties and higher education institutions from adopting policies that would:

  • Inhibit local authorities from reporting undocumented immigrants to federal officials.
  • Grant undocumented immigrants the legal right to stay in a jurisdiction.

The bill goes to Gov. Doug Burgum, whose spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hundreds of local and state governments across the country have created policies that aim to offer undocumented residents "sanctuary" from the threat of deportation. The ordinances often bar local police from questioning residents about their immigration status and from cooperating with federal immigration officials.

Forum News Service could not find evidence that any jurisdiction in North Dakota has adopted a policy to limit coordination with immigration officials.

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Sen. Judy Estenson, R-Warwick, said Friday strong enforcement of immigration laws is needed to safeguard the nation, adding that "complete disarray" at the southern border has endangered Americans.

"Our country is being flooded by drugs, sex traffickers, criminals and people who lack the respect (for) our great country to go through the legal process of entering," Estenson said.

Sen. Ryan Braunberger, D-Fargo, opposed the bill because he said immigrants could be deterred from working with police when crimes occur. He added that the state is stripping cities and counties of local control.

Earlier on Friday, the Senate rejected Heilman's House Bill 1493, which aimed to bar undocumented immigrants from acquiring drivers' licenses and other forms of official identification.

Sen. Dean Rummel, R-Dickinson, told colleagues that the bill carried too many unintended consequences that could prevent people with legal immigration status, like Ukrainian refugees, from getting IDs. He added that the Department of Transportation already refuses to issue drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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