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Ohio House divided over bill to outlaw sanctuary cities

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Ohio legislators have proposed a bill that would make declaring a city a “sanctuary city” a crime.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and State Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, announced the bill Monday. The legislation prohibits local jurisdiction from taking actions that will hinder immigration enforcement. It also allows elected officials to be charged with a 4th degree felony — punishable by  six to 18 months in prison and fines up to $5,000 — for crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in their city.

As of now, it is unclear how the bill would apply to sanctuary campuses. Students at Ohio University have protested to make the campus a sanctuary campus, but President Roderick McDavis announced Monday the university will not adopt the title.

Mandel cited seven incidents in which undocumented immigrants committed murder as evidence of the bill’s necessity. But only one of those attacks was in Ohio. Two of the seven mentioned took place in Europe, one in Germany and the November 2015 attack in Paris.

“My main concern is making sure no more Americans are permanently separated from their families after being murdered by illegal immigrants,” Mandel said.

Both Keller and Mandel frequently cited “radical Islamic terrorism” during a Monday phone conference as justification for the would-be law, but neither could provide any instance of such in the state, saying the proposal is proactive in nature.

“We’ve seen the open borders policy in Europe fail and put innocent families and kids at stake, and we’re trying to stop that in the United States and we’re trying to stop more of these attacks on innocent Americans,” Mandel said.

Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Lima, Lorain, Oberlin, Painesville, Lake County and Lucas County, Ohio, have been declared sanctuaries by city officials. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is the latest to add his city to the list, declaring Feb. 1 that the city is, and always has been, a sanctuary.

Although there is no legal definition, a sanctuary city is one where the city’s police department does not directly coordinate with federal immigration officials and does not actively enforce federal immigration laws. The cities are “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants who face deportation.

Mandel, plans to run for Sen. Sherrod Brown’s U.S. Senate seat in 2018, condemned Cranley’s label of sanctuary city, calling his actions “partisan politics” on a phone conference Monday morning.

In response to the bill, House Democrats have proposed legislation to make Ohio a sanctuary state. This bill, proposed by Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, and Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, would stop Ohio from interfering with community decisions regarding immigrants.

Ramos called the sanctuary ban “clearly unenforceable and likely unconstitutional” and asked the legislature to refuse to hold a hearing on the bill.

“This is a type of language that is dangerous here in Ohio,” Ramos said. “This type of language is based on white supremacy.”

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