FRANKFORT, Ky. — Despite pleas from immigration advocates Senate Bill 1 cleared a Senate committee.
SB 1, sponsored by Paducah Republican Senator Danny Carroll would prevent any cities or towns in Kentucky from adopting sanctuary policies, and require law enforcement agencies and its employees, public officials or public employees from adhering to any sanctuary policy. A sanctuary policy limits cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Carroll says this legislation does not require local or state law enforcement to proactively go out and seek undocumented immigrants, instead it requires them to work with federal immigration authorities when requested upon.
“This bill does nothing to require that an agency does more,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t say you have to do more but it does say you can’t you do less, that’s the basic premise.”
A committee substitute to the bill makes exemptions where this law would not apply, domestic violence shelters, children’s advocacy crisis centers, rape crisis centers, public advocacy offices, health departments and also school districts, including school resource officers.
Any sanctuary policy that is adopted if this law is passed would be “invalid, void, and unforceable.”
Carroll said this law is not about stopping immigration but about making sure federal laws are followed in Kentucky.
“Are we going to enforce the laws of this country in our commonwealth, or are we going to ignore them?” Carroll said. “We owe it to our people to ensure the safety of our people we must enforce federal law; we must have cooperation between state, federal, local officials, that’s what this bill is about.”
But those opposed say this bill will cause families to be separated and people to be deported. They further argue most undocumented immigrants do not cause crimes, and if this becomes law it will put a culture of fear among immigrants.
“These individuals have been law abiding citizens almost all their lives but they are afraid to come out and go forward with any kind of complaint, any type of concern because they are afraid they will be turned over to immigration enforcement,” said Ron Russell, an immigration attorney. “These are the individuals we are talking about that will be swept up under Senate Bill 1.”
Supporters say nothing in this bill should do that.
“This should not scare any family or any individual because this changes nothing the way business is done today,” said Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville. “Actually it does, it provides protections that aren’t currently in law. You see currently right now there’s no protection for domestic violence shelter about releasing information.”
Somewhere where both sides agreed on was that the immigration system in the country is broken, but Omar Salinas-Chacon, a board member of ACLU of Kentucky and a DACA recipient said despite that lawmakers seem unwilling to acknowledge that most undocumented immigrants are not criminals.
“The problem is that we have gotten to the point where members of our own legislature do not see undocumented immigrants as humans, it’s easy to dismiss us when you group us together in that slur illegal and say we would do horrible things in a political ad, however we too are Kentuckians, your neighbors,” he said. “The death and suffering of my family and I, along with that of several immigrants, your neighbors is okay, as long as it’s political convenient.”
Bill sponsor Carroll fought back against claims that he is against immigration.
“Saying that I am insensitive to immigrants, my whole life has been geared around public service, the service to others, that is an insult. I want immigrants to be here, I want them to be here legally, we need them here, we need them for the workforce,” he said “We have to enforce the laws that exist, there are federal laws, to ask out law enforcement officers to ignore federal law is wrong.”
The measure passed with Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, and Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington voting no and Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, passing on the vote.
The bill heads to the full Senate floor for final consideration, Carroll believes it could be heard early next week.