At a press conference this morning to sign his military retiree tax cut into law, Governor Hutchinson gave critical remarks about two pieces of legislation by Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro) that seem to target immigrants.
One of those bills, HB 1041, seeks to preserve “American laws for American courts” and is motivated by the non-existent threat of Sharia law creeping into the Arkansas judicial system. Though its impact is likely more symbolic than anything else, it’s not a pretty symbolism: The bill is fueled by paranoia about Muslims. It passed the House yesterday with broad Republican support, though not unanimous.
Today, Hutchinson made it clear he was not impressed by the measure. When a reporter asked about the bill, he said:
I’m searching for a reason for that legislation. I’ve been in courts, I’ve litigated all over the country and here in Arkansas, and I just have not identified that as a problem.
The governor was also asked about Rep. Smith’s HB 1042, which was defeated in the House Education committee this morning on a voice vote. The bill would have stripped state funds from colleges and universities with “sanctuary policies” in regards to undocumented immigrants. Though the bill looks to be dead, it’s worth noting Hutchinson’s response in light of the ongoing national battle over immigration:
I think we have to look at that very carefully, because you’re looking at students who are granted authority to be in the university system. They’re paying tuition — out-of-state tuition, I believe — and they’re getting their education, and while they’re doing that we don’t want to create a climate of fear for them. We want to recognize that many of them are here in the United States because their parents made the decision to come here; it was not a decision of their own. … So, I just think we need to be very careful about that. I’ve talked to Rep. Smith and expressed my concerns about it.
There’s also another bill targeting sanctuary policies in municipal government — Sen. Gary Stubblefield’s SB 14. It was expected to run in committee this morning, but did not. Between the governor’s comments and the obstacles encountered by Smith’s HB 1042 this morning, SB 14 would appear to face an uphill climb.