Immigration bill passes Kentucky Senate after lengthy debate
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bill to ban sanctuary policies by most public agencies in Kentucky won state Senate approval Tuesday after a debate that offered starkly different portrayals of the contentious immigration measure.
The Republican-dominated Senate passed the bill on a 28-10 vote following a debate lasting more than an hour. The measure now goes to the GOP-led House.
Sen. Danny Carroll, the bill’s lead sponsor, called it a public safety measure promoting cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws.
Opponents countered that the bill isn’t needed. They noted that Kentucky has no sanctuary cities and that law enforcement cooperation already exists.
“What this bill will do is strain the resources of our local cops,” Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey said in opposing the measure. “They’re not trained in immigration law.”
Carroll, a Paducah Republican, responded that the bill would not lead to a “rush” of mass roundups of undocumented people in sweeps involving Kentucky law enforcement.
“They do not have the time nor the manpower to go out and start pro-actively enforcing immigration law,” he said. “There is no expectation that they do that.”
He called the bill a preemptive step to prevent sanctuary policies from gaining a foothold.
“Does it not make sense that for once we get in front of something?” Carroll said. “And we set a standard, we set an expectation. We don’t wait for a city to declare themselves as a sanctuary city and give harbor to criminal aliens.”
Thirteen other states have passed similar legislation, Carroll said.
Two Senate Republicans — Tom Buford and Alice Forgy Kerr — joined most of the chamber’s Democrats in voting against the Kentucky bill.
While immigration is a hot-button issue nationally, the bill’s supporters portrayed the measure as a law enforcement issue. But McGarvey, a Louisville Democrat, said it runs counter to Kentucky’s tradition of welcoming immigrants.
“It sends a signal that the welcome sign isn’t on,” he said.
The bill would prohibit public entities including city and county governments from adopting sanctuary policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Most agencies would be required to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Local law enforcement agencies would be required to “use their best efforts, considering available resources,” to help federal law enforcement.
After the Senate vote, an official with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said the bill would require Kentucky law enforcement to “blindly carry out” requests by federal immigration officials. The result will turn local control “on its head” and leave counties responsible for any constitutional violations, said Kate Miller, the group’s advocacy director.
The group also warned that the bill will increase racial profiling of minorities.
During the Senate debate, Carroll rejected claims that the bill would lead to profiling. He accused some opponents of spreading “wild interpretations” of the bill.
Exemptions are carved out in the bill for school districts and employees of such agencies as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, public advocacy offices and public health departments.
The bill would require most public employees to use their “best efforts” to help enforce federal immigration laws in response to “legal and valid” requests. It would not create an obligation for public employees to take proactive steps such as pursuit, detention or arrest to enforce those laws.
“It does not require civilians to become law enforcement officers,” Carroll said.
It would allow law enforcement agencies to adopt policies limiting when officers could ask about the nationality and immigration status of a crime victim or witness. Such rules could allow those questions only if the information is pertinent to an investigation or to help someone obtain a visa.
The legislation is Senate Bill 1.