PROTESTERS: Citizens gathered outside of the House Education committee to express opposition to Smith's bill.
Rep. Brandt Smith's bill to "prohibit sanctuary policies at state-supported institutions of higher education" failed by a voice vote today in the House Education committee. Smith said after the meeting that he had no intention of reviving the legislation. Notes from the meeting this morning:
As Benji explained last month, Smith amended the bill since it was first introduced in December, making it slightly less alarming than its original form, but the concept remains: A cudgel to enforce federal immigration policy by way of withholding state funding from colleges and universities. HB 1042 would mean that any restrictive new federal measures on immigration from the Trump administration would potentially have sharper teeth in Arkansas in regards to college students.
The Arkansans most likely to be affected by this legislation, should it pass, are undocumented immigrants (most of them Latino) who came to the United States as children and are now attending college in the state. A large number of demonstrators opposing the bill have gathered at the committee.
Smith's argument, such as it was, was that pernicious radicals would force campuses to adopt policies that violated federal law. "This is directed at the radical, fringe anarchist types," Smith said. He said he wanted to "protect the decent types at campuses." Smith said that he was worried that Arkansas campuses would turn in to ... Berkeley. LOL.
Smith also stated that he was worried that a rogue professor would hide undocumented immigrants in their offices, feed them, and then carry their human waste out and dump it on campus.
Smith said that he was inspired to file his bill by a petition effort at Arkansas State University (which was denied by university administration) to make ASU a "sanctuary campus."
Smith listed five reasons for his bill, most of them of the sloganeering variety:
1) "Respect for the rule of law."
2) "Respect for the taxpayers of the state of Arkansas."
3) "Respect for the intended purposes of higher education."
"We need to keep our focus on academics, not on chaos, anarchy, and lawbreaking," Smith said. He said all of the anarchy would be an "injustice to serious-minded students."
4) Support for higher-education administration officials to oppose "petition drives of this nature."
5) "If we enact this law, it will focus on the criminal elements on campuses." He said that sanctuary status on campuses would protect criminals.
Smith was horrified that the petition at ASU (again, which was denied) aimed to provide help to undocumented students. "We're wanting to document our undocumented?" he asked. "That doesn't make sense."
Speaking to some of the citizens gathered, who perhaps include undocumented students, Smith said: "We're not opposed to you being here, but you just need to stay out of the crosshairs." He said that undocumented protesters were being used for political purposes and they were better off hiding. "Stay off the radar," he recommended to undocumented students.
Smith was asked about the fact that university and college administrations state that there is no need for the bill. Much like his anti-Sharia bill, he acknowledged that there is no evidence that the problem his bill purports to solve exists in Arkansas. (Smith claimed that some campuses secretly supported his bill despite public condemnation.) However, he said that maybe the supposed problem would exist in the future.
He said that legislators needed to be proactive rather than reactive. His core approach to lawmaking is that if he can imagine a problem, particularly of the anti-terrorist LARPing variety, he should pass an unnecessary law even if the supposed problem does not exist. Smith has an active imagination.
"I refuse to sit idly by and let a few rogue radical professors and misguided students take a school hostage," Smith said.
After the bill failed by a voice vote, Smith told reporters that he would not run the bill again.