Kentucky Senate Passes Sanctuary Cities Ban

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate passed a measure to ban sanctuary cities in the commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1 would prohibit any cities or counties from enacting sanctuary city policies, where local authorities shield undocumented immigrants from federal immigration officers.

State Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, sponsors the bill. He said it will maintain the status quo of cooperation with the federal government.

“This bill will ensure the political agenda stays out of law enforcement. It will ensure that the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies continue cooperation,” Carroll said. “I will remind this body that cooperation is a two-way street: If we set a standard that all state and local officers are not going to cooperate with federal officials, there’s a concern what will happen when our officers need help from them, which I assure you is regularly.”

The Trump Administration has threatened to withhold certain federal funds from sanctuary cities, but some federal courts have blocked some of those efforts.

Louisville passed an ordinance in 2017 that forbids local officers from interacting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers unless they have a court order. President Trump’s administration investigated the ordinance but found the ordinance did not make Louisville a sanctuary city.

Opponents of the bill say it isn’t a problem in Kentucky since there are no sanctuary cities in the commonwealth. Kentucky Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said the bill will lead to a lack of trust between police and the public.

“We have no instances of sanctuary cities. We have no instances of a lack of cooperation. What we do have is a bill that’s going to require local law enforcement officers to become federal immigration officers, which could erode the trust they have in their communities, which means people might not go to them,” McGarvey said.

“The bill says any police department in the state can now ask about immigration status. Their job is to keep us safe from crimes happening here and assist the feds on immigration policy, and that’s what we’re doing.” State Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, said other states that have passed similar sanctuary city bans have seen immigrants leave in droves, costing those state’s agriculture, construction and other industries hundreds of millions of dollars.

“If this bill passes today, I submit to you, that we here in this state will again see tremendous harm to our economy, to our construction industry, to our trade sector,” Thomas said. “Because this bill will undoubtedly… be alarmed and frightened and intimidated by the passage of this bill.”

Carroll said opponents of the bill have mischaracterized what the bill actually does, and he also took issue with criticisms about the bill being unnecessary.

“In this chamber, often times we are left responding to problems that already exist. Does it not make sense that for once, we get in front of something? 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,” Carroll said.

The bill exempts certain agencies from having to disclose information about undocumented immigrants, including domestic violence shelters, children’s advocacy centers, and rape crisis centers. An amendment from Thomas to add colleges and universities to the list of exempted agencies was rejected by lawmakers Tuesday.

The bill passed 28-10. Republican state senators Alice Forgy Kerr and Tom Buford, both from Lexington, broke with their party to vote against the bill.

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Tom Buford, D-Prestonsburg, was the only Democrat to vote in favor of the bill.