“This has really turned into a movement,” state Rep. Dave Williams told The Colorado Statesman on Sunday. “I didn’t expect this reaction from around the country.”
Republican legislators in Ohio, Alaska and Maine said Sunday they are working on legislation similar to House Bill 17-1134, introduced last week and dubbed “The Colorado Politician Accountability Act.”
The Colorado bill creates the crime of “rendering assistance to an illegal alien through a sanctuary jurisdiction,” a Class 4 felony, and describes how victims can seek charges against public officials who have a hand in giving undocumented immigrants safe haven. It would also make it possible for victims to sue elected officials for personal injury and property damage committed by immigrants.
The bill would apply to all manner of jurisdictions within Colorado, including counties, school districts, universities and the state itself, Williams noted. “If you’re not cooperating, if you’re not obeying the federal mandates, you’ll be liable.”
Williams said officials from around the country have been contacting him since he introduced the Colorado bill and soon after made appearances on the Fox News Channel to discuss it.
“I was very humbled and grateful to the people who have reached out to me,” he said, including a resident of Washington state who told Williams he plans to duplicate much of the bill’s language in a ballot measure.
“When I saw this proposal, I told myself, ‘This is it, the solution for safer communities,’” said Maine state Rep. Lawrence Lockman in a statement. “Corrupt politicians, for the longest time, have protected illegal aliens and we simply cannot sit here idly watching good people get hurt and no one being held accountable.”
Alaska state Rep. David Eastman called sanctuary policies “unconscionable” and said he was proud to sponsor legislation based on the Williams bill.
“Any politician who cares more about pushing a political agenda than protecting the citizens they were elected to serve should be held accountable when their actions result in harm to members of the public,” Eastman said in a statement. “As an elected official, and as a military veteran, I swore an oath to uphold and protect the United States Constitution. All legislators who take a similar oath, regardless of the letter that comes after their name, must be held accountable.”
“All Americans deserve to feel safe in their own communities,” Ohio state Rep. Candice Keller said in a statement.
“I cannot imagine what Kate Steinle’s family has gone through,” Keller said, invoking the name of a San Francisco woman murdered in 2015 by an illegal immigrant who had crossed paths with authorities multiple times to no effect.
“I will do everything within my power to prevent that kind of incident in Ohio,” she said, adding, “Local politicians who feel that they are unaccountable to the citizens need to know that we are holding them to the same high standards under which we all live. Lawlessness has no place in Ohio communities.”
In addition to the lawmakers from Ohio, Alaska and Maine, Williams said legislators from other states have been in touch and could announce their intentions soon. “Most Americans would agree that this issue of sanctuary city policies needs to be addressed,” he said. “If these guys are going to create this environment, then they need to own it.”
Democrats who have weighed in have strongly opposed the proposal — state Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat, called it “grounded in ridiculousness, surround by ignorance, covered in prejudice and overall is tone deaf” — making for an uphill battle in Colorado — and in Maine, where control of the legislature is likewise split between the parties. (In Colorado, the Williams bill has its first hearing on Feb. 21 before the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, known as the chamber’s “kill committee,” where the party in control can dispatch legislation it doesn’t support.) In Ohio and Alaska, however, Republicans control both chambers of the legislatures and the governors’ offices.
Williams brushed off the possibility that his legislation might be enacted elsewhere first after meeting an early demise in Colorado.
“The way forward is to keep up the pressure,” he said. “If Democrats want to continue to deny victims their ability to seek justice from these lawless politicians, then they can go ahead and make that case to the voters. I’m going to make the opposite case and keep pushing it.”
Williams added that Democrats have another thing coming if they think they can make the bill disappear in the kill committee. It’s worth noting, he said, that several prominent Republicans and GOP leaders in the Senate have signed on as co-sponsors.
“If that happens,” he said, “I’m going to go to the Senate, and I’m going to try to get them to introduce a late bill and get it passed, so we can have ample opportunity to keep Colorado safe.”