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Ohio lawmakers introduce bill withholding money from LE agencies not cooperating with ICE

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Anna Staver
Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two Ohio Republicans have introduced a bill that would withhold funding from local governments and law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

"Put very simply, this bill will put in place measures to curtail illegal immigration in our state," Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said during a committee meeting Thursday.

Antani's bill, which is called Ohio's Anti-Sanctuary Cities Act, would require cities, counties, sheriffs and police departments to follow certain rules on people in the United States illegally or else risk losing their homeland security funding and any Local Government Fund distributions from the state.

For example, local governments that give out public benefits would have use a federal program called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements or SAVE to verify everyone's eligibility. Law enforcement agencies would have to honor federal retainer requests.

And no local government could pass "an ordinance, policy, directive, rule, or resolution" that limits their cooperation with federal authorities.

That's no so different from what Trump's Justice Department, under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, attempted to do in July 2017. It tried to make law enforcement grants contingent on giving federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to any detention facility they operate as well as provide ICE 48 hours notice before an inmate on their list was released.

Multiple federal and state judges ruled those requirements unconstitutional.

The nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission, which provides analysis of every bill, raised similar concerns about House Bill 169.

"Because federal law allows a municipality to decline to participate in voluntary federal immigration enforcement programs, such as ICE detainer requests, and some municipalities do so decline, a court might find that the bill violates an Ohio municipality's home rule power to make that decision," the LSC report said.

Cincinnati labeled itself a sanctuary city back in 2017, but other Ohio cities, such as Columbus, took a more measured approach by essentially saying immigration is not their responsibility.

Mayor Andrew Ginther signed an executive order in 2017 prohibiting the use of city resources for the "sole purpose of detecting or apprehending persons based on suspected immigration status, unless in response to a court order." It also said Columbus wouldn't deny access to services based on immigration status.

"These policies are tying the hands of local law enforcement behind their backs. In these sanctuary city areas, there have been sheriffs who have backed off holding criminal aliens for fear of lawsuits," said Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown.

"Law enforcement should never fear to do the job they were hired for — enforcing the law."