DOVER — There is no “more wrongheaded policy” than making Delaware a sanctuary state, Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, said Monday.
The Republican nominee for governor said in a brief news conference he plans to bring legislation next year that would require the state to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Sanctuary policies essentially forbid police from asking if an arrestee is living in the country illegally.
While no states have officially barred law enforcement from arresting or detaining anyone on the basis of their immigration status, several major cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco, have.
Lisa Blunt Rochester, the state’s Democratic nominee for its open congressional seat, said last month she supports making Delaware a sanctuary state.
An “overwhelming majority” of residents in the state are opposed to that, Sen. Bonini claimed Monday.
“We would become a magnet for illegal immigration and quite frankly, a refuge for criminal illegal immigrants,” he said. “Regardless of what one thinks about the federal laws we currently have, they need to be enforced.”
Supporters of sanctuary state policies say they prevent local police from becoming focused on issues best handled by the federal government and help build trust between law enforcement and Hispanic communities.
Sen. Bonini, however, believes they lead to crime and are “unfair” to people who legally immigrated into the United States.
Attempting to cast himself as “pro-immigration,” he joked during the news conference “there were no Boninis on the Mayflower,” meaning his ancestors did immigrate into the country.
His opponent in next month’s gubernatorial election, Rep. John Carney, said in a statement the issue should be handled at the federal level, although he did not address whether he supports sanctuary policies.
“The answer to this problem is comprehensive immigration reform, which is what I’ve been fighting for over the past six years in Congress,” he said. “Unfortunately, Republicans have been the main impediment to immigration reform in the Congress. State by state legislation is not the answer.”
While the General Assembly is currently controlled by Democrats, who tend to be more supportive of sanctuary policies, Sen. Bonini said he believes there may be enough votes to pass legislation, especially if he is elected governor.
In 2015, Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, introduced legislation that would bar police from arresting or deporting anyone living in Delaware illegally solely on the basis of their immigration status. He later withdrew the bill, which was spotlighted by Fox News in May, and said police in the state already follow many of the practices included in it.
Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at firstname.lastname@example.org