Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Legislative Alert: HCR 0015 passes; HB 5053 is introduced
October 3, 2017
I. HCR 0015: Calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
On October 3, 2017, a resolution noting the accomplishments and contributions of immigrants to the state of Michigan and the serious problems caused by uncertainty in our immigration system was adopted by the Michigan House of Representatives. The resolution's sponsors were a bipartisan group led by lead sponsor, Rep. Jim Lilly, (R-District 89). The resolution has no legal effect, but the large number of sponsors from both parties demonstrates significant consensus among our leaders that, "[the] absence of such reform leaves in place a patchwork of policies that creates confusion, uncertainty, and fear within immigrant communities and for employers, universities, and congregations of various faiths. Moreover, our nation's imperfect immigration system dampens tourism and burdens our state and local governments with high enforcement and legal costs."
II. HB 5053: Banning all local funding "specifically supporting or otherwise assisting" undocumented immigrants
Primary Sponsor: Jeffrey Noble (R- District 20)
Other Sponsors: Rep. Daire Rendon (R-District 103); Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-District 17); Rep. Jim Runestad (R-District 44); Rep. Peter Lucido (R-District 36); Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-District 97); Rep. Tom Barrett (R-District 71); Rep. Gary Glenn (R-District 98); Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-District 32).
10/3/2017: Introduced in the Michigan House and referred to the Committee on Local Government.
Bill Summary: The bill states that, "the legislative body of a local unit [of government] shall not adopt a general appropriations act or an amendment to that general appropriations act or a law, charter resolution or ordinance that provides any funding to specifically support or otherwise assist illegal aliens." The bill provides that existing laws much be changed to end any funded programs that "specifically support or otherwise assist illegal aliens" and that if they are not changed within a 60-day period, any resident can sue his or her local government or file a complaint with the state attorney general. If a resident were to prevail in court, the local government would be obligated to change their laws, pay the plaintiff's attorney's fees, and possibly face penalty fees.
Background and Analysis: This bill stands in stark contrast to the bipartisan, common-sense approach advocated by the sponsors of HCR 0015, discussed above. (Although we note that Rep. Peter Lucido (R-District 36) is a co-sponsor of both measures.) It seems likely that this bill is directed at explicitly pro-immigrant local efforts such as: municipal identification programs; welcoming, diversity and inclusion initiatives; language access; racial equity leadership training; farmworker emergency assistance; and other local legal and social services programs designed to address immigrant community needs. However, the language of the bill could be interpreted much more broadly.
Federal law prevents many immigrants, both documented and undocumented, from receiving assistance through the major public benefits programs including the full-scope Medicaid and Healthy Michigan programs, FAP/SNAP (food stamps), and FIP (cash assistance). Much of that law prohibits state-funded assistance as well, and Michigan has not chosen to exercise most of the optional state-funded assistance that federal law allows in some cases. For example, most immigrants have to hold green cards for five full years before they are eligible for those programs. Some localities have chosen to fund programs that fill the gaps in human services that federal and state policy creates by supporting health, food, shelter, and other human services programs for those who are otherwise ineligible. This law would either require those programs to require proof of immigration status or terminate those programs entirely.
In addition, many programs offered by local units of government either legally or practically cannot require proof of status. For example, federal law prohibits verification of immigration status in K-12 education and federal law requires that many localities provide language access in key programs and verification of status only for those who receive assistance would be illegal national origin discrimination. Other core municipal services that are available to the general public regardless of immigration status like police services, the courts, city parks and public works, and sanitation obviously "assist" undocumented residents. It's not clear from the language of the bill how "specifically supporting or otherwise assisting" would be understood by the courts if litigation were to be brought seeking to exclude undocumented residents from access to those services. It's exceptionally impractical and extremely problematic from a civil liberties perspective to imagine how a legal status verification program might work with respect to core municipal services that are currently provided to all residents.
This bill is extremely similar in its structure to HB 4616, which seeks to ban local regulation of firearms. That bill passed the Michigan House on September 27, 2017 and has been referred to the Senate. Also, like the currently pending "anti-sanctuary cities" bills, HB 4105 and 4334 (link to full MIRC analysis) these bills use a mechanism for enforcement which allow any resident to sue their local government if they believe that a policy made by their local elected official or elected body does not comply with the state restriction. This exposes local governments to potentially costly litigation if they attempt to address any local need or issue that may be perceived as relating to immigrants' rights or immigrant community needs. It promotes undemocratic and unresponsive leadership. For all of these reasons, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center opposes HB 5053.