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Government & Politics

New Ohio State Lawmaker attacks Immigrants, Refugees as Harbingers of Crime, Dems Call It Racism

photo of Rep. Candice Keller
Rep. Candice Keller has publicly supported President Donald Trump's immigration and travel ban executive order.

The fight over how the state should deal with immigration issues has Republicans and Democrats at the Statehouse backing competing bills. And there are the signs the fight will be nasty. 

The lawmaker working on legislation to outlaw sanctuary cities in Ohio is newly elected Republican Rep. Candice Keller. And she’s gotten some high-profile support from state Treasurer Josh Mandel.

Keller and Mandel both back President Donald Trump, who has spoken out strongly against sanctuary cities. Keller’s southwest Ohio district went overwhelmingly for Trump. And Mandel has been relying on Trump-type rhetoric in the campaign he’s launched for next year’s U.S. Senate race.

Keller says she’ll propose her bill because she’s found evidence that sanctuary cities nationwide are full of Muslim refugees and have become havens for criminals.

“There are 8,000 unauthorized immigrants with criminal records that have been treated by sanctuary cities despite the fact that federal authorities have been requested that they be turned over for deportations. And so in eight months’ time, 7,500 new charges (have been) placed on many of those people, including child sex abuse," she said.

"A lot of the culture and a lot of what we are seeing come in includes not only terrorism and crime but sexual assault, sexually transmitted diseases, child marriage, child rape and prostitution.  Six states have already reported rape and sexual assault.”

When asked by reporters, Keller could not  elaborate on the basis for her statement.

Cincinnati and Columbus are among the communities that have passed so-called sanctuary city legislation or something similar to it. Officials in those cities say they did to provide protection for immigrants who have illegal status.

Refugees, to which Keller was intermittently referring, typically have legal status already.

A day after Keller made her comments, Democratic state Reps. Dan Ramos and Stephanie Howse talked about their bill. Like Keller’s, it’s still in the works. But it would, among other things, hold sanctuary cities harmless from penalties or retribution. But Keller’s comments were still fresh on Howse’s mind.

photo of Rep. Stephanie Howse
Reps. Stephanie Howse and Dan Ramos both criticized legislation taking aim at sanctuary cities in Ohio and across the country.

“When you talk about blaming immigrants and their culture for committing crimes including assaults and rapes and bringing in sexually transmitted diseases, this is a type of language that is dangerous here in Ohio. This type of language is based on white supremacy because what are you saying? Whose culture? Who is going to get raped?" Howse said.

"Rep. Keller is from Butler County. I don’t know the demographics are to the tee, but I can guarantee you the majority of the people in Butler County don’t look like me, don’t look like Rep. Ramo. And what you are saying is people who are different than you are causing a disruption to your culture? Where’s the evidence?”

Keller and Mandel cited the Center for Immigration Studies to back up some of their claims. However, that group' methodology has been criticized as being biased against pro-immigration policies

Other sources, such as a study published in the Washington Post, show there has been no increase in crime in sanctuary cities and in some of them, the crime rate went down.  

There’s no word on what priority the sanctuary city ban has in the Republican-controlled Legislature, but House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s office has said the GOP caucus will take a close look at it.