ILAP Testimony in Support of LD 1589: An Act To Protect the Liberty of Immigrants and Asylum Seekers in Maine and Opposition to LD1449: An Act To Facilitate Compliance with Federal Immigration Law
Good morning, Senator Carpenter, Representative Bailey, and distinguished members of the Committee on Judiciary. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of LD 1589 and in opposition to LD 1449.
My name is Julia Brown. I am the Advocacy and Outreach Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP). ILAP is Maine’s only statewide nonprofit provider of immigration law and related legal aid to Maine’s low-income residents. Each year, ILAP serves over 3,000 individuals statewide, coming from approximately 100 countries around the world. On behalf of ILAP, I ask the Committee to vote “ought to pass” on LD 1589, otherwise known as “An Act to Protect the Liberty of Immigrants and Asylum Seekers in Maine,” and “ought not to pass” on LD 1449, otherwise known as “An Act To Facilitate Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities.”
Passing LD 1449 will have dangerous consequences and a negative effect on public safety, and will undermine the ability of law enforcement to do their job. This bill will lead state residents to distrust state and local government officials, especially law enforcement officials. This bill will dissuade many noncitizen Maine residents from reporting criminal activity – including survivors of crime. These crimes can be domestic violence, sexual assault or even labor and sex trafficking. Such a chilling effect will impede local and state law enforcement from being able to enforce Maine’s criminal laws. LD 1589, however, would strengthen the relationship between Maine’s immigrant communities and law enforcement by cementing a sense of trust in state and local law enforcement agencies.
LD 1449 essentially deputizes state and local officials to enforce federal immigration laws. Our nation’s immigration laws are very complex and this bill places an undue burden on Maine’s civil servants and law enforcement officials at the expense of the state and localities. LD 1449 is silent as to how state and local employees will come to learn our nation’s immigration laws and become equipped to make a determination about whether a person is in lawful status or otherwise lawfully present. Because of this silence, it is likely that local or state government officials will often base their inquiry about a person’s immigration status on race or country of origin. The passage of LD 1449 will pressure agencies to engage in racial profiling for fear of an investigation and fine levied against them. The consequence is state-sanctioned racial profiling.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen increased fear and anxiety in Maine’s immigrant population. These fears are felt by immigrants with every type of status imaginable – whether undocumented, here on a visa, or even a naturalized citizen. These fears stem from a marked rise in indiscriminate immigration enforcement activity nationwide and here in Maine. A law like LD 1449 will only exacerbate the panic felt by so many in the Maine immigrant community, whereas LD 1589 will go a long way in ameliorating those fears.
LD 1589 protects state and local law enforcement by ensuring effective policing and using Maine’s limited resources in appropriate ways. Moreover, LD 1589 guarantees that state and local law enforcement will not be entangled with federal immigration enforcement programs. Participation in these programs could violate the United States Constitution, making Maine’s law enforcement agencies vulnerable to a lawsuit.
For these reasons, I urge you to vote “ought not to pass” on LD 1449 and “ought to pass” on LD 1589. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and the opportunity to speak with you today.
 American Immigration Council, The End of Immigration Enforcement Priorities Under the Trump Administration, March 2018, available at https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/immigration-enforcement-priorities-under-trump-administration.
 American Immigration Lawyers Association, Assumption of Risk: Legal Liabilities for Local Governments that Choose to Enforce Federal Immigration Laws, March 7, 2019, available at https://aila.org/infonet/liabilities-local-govs-that-enforce-fed-imm-laws.