Michigan sanctuary city legislation causing confusion

A file photo of Michigan's Capitol Building in Lansing on May 25, 2016.


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — One committee of the Michigan State House has passed a bill that is sure to create some controversy — and according one lawmaker, it has already created confusion and misunderstanding.

The bill that would more or less ban sanctuary cities — which are cities that don’t enforce federal immigration law — passed the Local Government Committee last week.

“I was very disappointed in it and that’s why I was so against it,” said Rep. Terry Sabo, a Muskegon Democrat.

Sabo had the same reaction as the rest of his Democratic colleagues on the Local Government Committee when he voted no on a bill that the chairman of that committee, Republican James Lower from Montcalm County, says is a matter of common sense.

“What it doesn’t allow is a policy of non-enforcement, because just like with the other scenario that we gave you, if your city had a policy where nobody was going to get a speeding ticket ever… what’s going to happen? Well, everybody would speed,” Lower said.

Lower also said cities and other governmental bodies shouldn’t have polices that prevent them from cooperating with federal officials when it comes immigration laws.

But Sabo has a different view.

“What these bills called for was for local government to take on even more duties [than] what they already have and our police agencies are already strapped with our cuts in revenue sharing they’ve been underfunded,” Sabo said. “They’re doing all they can to simply enforce the laws that they have in their own communities and then these bills are going to come along and rally add some confusion.”

Sabo sees the legislation as adding immigration enforcement for local authorities.

Regardless of one’s standpoint, the real problem may be how to identify which cites are so-called “sanctuary” cities. Municipalities could employ such non-enforcement without a formal policy.

“What we did with the bill is we tried to make it broad enough where it would encompass that, but you’re right,” Lower said. “That’s the problem with this whole debate, what exactly is a sanctuary city?”

It’s unclear what the fate of such a bill would be if it made it to the Michigan Senate or Gov. Rick Snyder. It does, however, seem poised to be brought up in the Michigan House, and when it does, expect more debate along a very sharp divide of opinions.