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Louisiana lawmakers advance immigration bill similar to controversial Texas law

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry addresses members of the House and Senate on opening day of a legislative special session focusing on crime, Feb. 19, 2024, in the House Chamber at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La. Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via The Associated Press

Louisiana lawmakers advance immigration bill similar to controversial Texas law

In a 28-11 vote, the Louisiana state Senate approved a measure on Monday that would allow state officials to arrest, jail and fine anyone who enters the state illegally. Under the proposed law illegal immigrants caught entering Louisiana could face up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine upon their first offense. A second infraction would bump the penalty to up to two years in prison and a total fine of $10,000. The measure would allow exemptions for immigrants serving as witnesses to certain egregious crimes like rape and murder. The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives for further discussion.

The bill is similar to a law enacted by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last December, allowing Texas authorities to arrest and possibly deport migrants suspected of crossing the border illegally. The law has since been subject to a legal frenzy after the Biden administration sued the state, insisting only the federal government may enforce immigration law. Abbott defended the law, asserting that the Biden administration had failed to enforce border policies, leaving the state with no other choice. Louisiana legislators make a similar argument in defense of their bill. A panel of judges in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month blocked Texas from enforcing the law while it considers the statute’s constitutionality. The outcome of that case could determine if the Louisiana bill will be allowed to go into effect if it is passed and signed into law.

Is Louisiana’s immigration problem really that bad? Despite not sharing a border with Mexico, some officials say the Bayou state still feels the effects of poor border policy in neighboring Texas. Louisiana had about 70,000 undocumented migrants residing in the state in 2019, with over 75 percent of them hailing from Mexico and Central America according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed an executive order in January instructing the state Department of Safety and Corrections to compile and publicize data on crimes allegedly committed by illegal immigrants. The order also instructs other state agencies to begin reporting the amount of public funds used to benefit illegal migrants to Landry’s office.

Dig deeper: Read my report on migrants on the Texas-Mexico border overrunning the National Guard.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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