The measure sponsored by Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, would effectively bar immigrant sanctuary-city policies and deny state sales tax revenue to any jurisdiction that adopted such a policy.
The bill was introduced in committee Monday. It follows a presidential executive order last week that threatens to deny federal funds to such jurisdictions.
“While Idaho is a wonderful place for refugees, immigrants of all types to move to, those that are seeking to avoid prosecution or deportation based on other criminal activities, we don’t want to become a magnet for those individuals,” Chaney said.
He said the bill does not seek to have local authorities police immigration violations.
“Sanctuary city” is a term broadly applied to localities whose policies limit local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Four states, 364 counties and 39 U.S. cities have some version of a limitation, according to the Immigrant Legal Resources Center. Idaho has none; Boise city officials say they have no plans to take such a step.
“Idaho is recognized as one of the safest states in the nation and our local law enforcement does a superb job,” House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding said in a statement. “This bill is a solution in search of a problem and will further marginalize those members who work hard to support their families.”
The proposal comes at a time when the country has been deeply divided over immigration policy. Proponents argue that police departments that enforce immigration laws help prevent criminals from being released back in their neighborhoods. Critics counter that such efforts increase the chances of racial profiling and hurt building community trust in police.
Limiting sanctuary policies is not a new trend for many states, but Trump's latest executive orders have revived the movement. After three years of effort, GOP lawmakers in Texas are expected to pass a measure banning sanctuary cities this legislative session.
Similarly, statehouses in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania have all introduced legislation this year seeking to ban cities or schools from breaking with federal immigration laws.
Those efforts have sparked counterprotests. An estimated 600 people flooded the Boise airport Sunday as part of the nationwide protest over Trump's executive order that suspended immigration from some Muslim countries.
Many of those same advocates filled every seat in the House State Affairs Committee on Monday and spilled into overflow rooms eager to show their discontent with the proposal.
The bill was introduced with only one Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Paulette Jordan, voting no. While no public testimony was heard, protesters said it was important to let lawmakers know that their constituents were watching.
“I’m fully supportive of local control, so I feel that cities, if they decide to have sanctuaries for immigrants, they should do so,” said Jordan, D-Plummer.
The proposal will return to the committee for a full hearing.
Idaho is home to roughly 95,000 immigrants, according to the nonprofit American Immigration Council. Meanwhile, 13.3 percent of the state's population is Hispanic or Asian.
“Agriculture is the backbone of many rural Idaho communities and this bill will cause local governments to target Latino’s unfairly,” Erpelding said. “We must focus on uniting all of our communities, not dividing them.”