ARKANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE
REP. BRANDT SMITH: Getting out ahead of the problem.
As expected, Rep. Brandt Smith
(R-Jonesboro) has again introduced legislation to address the nonexistent problem of "foreign laws" creeping into American courts. This bill died in committee in the 2015 session, after which Smith memorably sought retribution"
for Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott (who had had the audacity to call for a roll call vote).
Smith's HB 1041
is about the supposed threat of Sharia law
, though it doesn't mention it specifically. Such legislation has become a popular conservative cause in statehouses around the nation, despite the lack of any evidence that Islamic law is infiltrating American jurisprudence. The Nation has some background on the issue.
Smith told me this morning that the bill is intended to ensure the rule of law, much like another bill he introduced that would cut off funding for college campuses that are too tolerant of undocumented immigrants
. He said that several fellow representatives had approached him and urged him to revive the 2015 proposal
It was his understanding, Smith said, that Arkansas will eventually receive around 200 immigrants from the Middle East, and that his legislation would actually help protect them. "If we're going to be receiving Syrian immigrants and Iraqi immigrants from these refugee camps ... we want to be sure we give these people who are escaping tyranny an opportunity to be free from foreign law," he said. "No law usurps the Constitution."
When asked if he was aware of Sharia being instituted anywhere within the state, or causing any problems, he said, "No, and thankfully we haven't had to deal with that yet.
It's always better in my opinion to get out ahead of a problem." He cited the story of a custody dispute in which a woman lost contact with her child after her husband left the U.S. "While this was in the courts ... the husband, who was from the Middle East, he based his decision-making on Sharia law and fled the country."
When David Ramsey interviewed Smith for the Arkansas Times
earlier this year, he stated his intention to run this bill again. Smith said at the time:
When you deal with tribal people or people from other countries that have their own legal system, oftentimes when they immigrate to the United States, they are fleeing oppression or they're seeking better opportunities. .. But in some of these cases, most of these immigrants tend to cluster in areas where there are other people of the same ethnicity and cultural background, so they have a hard time assimilating into our country. ... In some cases they also bring their problems with them, and they'll bring a legal system with them.