By Julie Carr Smyth
AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS (AP) — City officials would be prohibited from adopting “sanctuary cities” protections for immigrants in the country illegally and held liable in criminal and civil courts for any crimes committed by such immigrants under a proposal headed to Ohio’s legislature.
A bill announced Monday would define and outlaw sanctuary jurisdictions and declare sanctuary policies contrary to federal law and state interests. Its civil and criminal penalties mirror those in a Colorado bill that’s also being replicated in Maine and Alaska.
The measures come as U.S. cities, including Cincinnati and Columbus, have enacted certain immigrant protections in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive orders.
The term “sanctuary city” currently lacks definition, but generally refers to cities that instruct police to avoid inquiries about immigration status and decline immigration officials’ requests to detain defendants awaiting deportation, unless federal officials have an arrest warrant.
State Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, coordinated announcement of the bill, sponsored by GOP state Rep. Candice Keller, of Middletown, through his state office.
Mandel, of Beachwood, said it fits with his government mission because he’s sworn to uphold the Constitution. He said he plans to make the measure a priority.
Mandel said Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, both Democrats, are “playing partisan politics” at the risk of Ohio children and families.
“This concept of sanctuary cities spits in the face of immigrants who are trying to do it the right way and are coming here legally,” he said.
He cited five cases of people killed in the U.S. by people without legal permission to be in the country, including a woman fatally shot in Painesville by a Mexican national on a crime spree in 2015. Two of the cases cited were drunken-driving crashes.
Ginther signed an executive order Friday welcoming immigrants. It declared that the city would not use its offices and employees to detain people based solely on immigration status, would provide similar services to immigrants and refugees as to other residents, and would “vigorously oppose” use of local taxpayer resources to enforce federal immigration policy.
Ginther spokeswoman Robin Davis said nothing in the order violates federal law.
“Unlike Treasurer Josh Mandel, Mayor Ginther will not use fear as a reason for discrimination and will not pick and choose who he protects based on religion or national origin,” she said. “Regardless of one’s views on immigration, it is reprehensible and unconstitutional to use Ohio criminal law in an attempt to shut down differing opinions on this issue.”
Keller, in her first legislative term, said her phones are “ringing off the hook” with calls from constituents from her southwestern Ohio district who are concerned and fearful.
Her bill, which is still being drafted, would prohibit any local law, rule, policy or plan that prohibits an elected official, employee or law enforcement officer from communicating or cooperating with a federal official, employee or law enforcement officer on an individual’s immigration status.
Rendering assistance in this way would be a 4th degree felony under the proposal, punishable by six to 18 months in prison and fines up to $5,000.
The legislation also allows victims of crimes by immigrants in the country illegally who have established residency in the sanctuary city to file for compensatory damages against both the city and the official responsible for creating the policy. It sets compensatory damage caps for injuries at $1 million per individual or $3 million for groups of two or more, and for property damages at $500,000 per individual or $1 million for groups of two or more.