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Campbell Officials Respond to "Sanctuary County" Listing, Somali Refugee Questions

The issue of Somali refugees and whether Campbell County is a "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants was discussed at this week's Fiscal Court meeting in Alexandria.

At a previous meeting, Commissioner Charlie Coleman raised questions about whether the Northern Kentucky Area Development District was working to place 2,000 Somali refugees in the county. At Wednesday night's meeting, County Administrator Matt Elberfeld cleared that up. He explained that an employee at NKADD was working on a master's degree in social work and was exploring issues related to the refugee population in Louisville. All the work was done outside of the employee's NKADD responsibilities.

The Boone County Needs Assessment Group expressed interest in learning about the employee's research and since that group meets at the NKADD's Florence office anyway, the research was presented to them there at a the group's regularly scheduled meeting.

"There was a fear that there would be a couple thousand Somali refugees, a collection of two-thousand that may not have been properly vetted and there may be a fear that there was a threat to the public," said Judge/Executive Steve Pendery. "But there aren't two-thousand Somali refugees."

Another issue raised by Coleman was also addressed: a website's listing of Campbell County as a place of sanctuary for illegal immigrants. The website is published by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a nonprofit organization devoted to reducing immigration to the United States and lists four Kentucky counties: Campbell, Franklin, Woodford, and Scott.

CIS describes the notation as: "Across the U.S., there are over 300 cities, counties, and states that are considered "sanctuary cities". These jurisdiction protect criminal aliens from deportation by refusing to comply with ICE detainers or otherwise impede open communication and information exchanges between their employees or officers and federal immigration agents."

Kenton County was also on the list, but was removed after Jailer Terry Carl provided information to CIS that showed the Kenton County Detention Center as being in full compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "It means we have either an ordinance or policy that prohibits us from cooperating," said Campbell County Attorney Steve Franzen. But there is no such law in Campbell, he said. "We do not have any ordinance that inhibits or gets in the way of our cooperation with immigration offices."

Franzen said that he contacted CIS and was told that the organization received documents from immigration authorities noting Campbell County as a place of sanctuary. Franzen requested those documents and is still waiting, he said. 
 
"Our imagination when we use the word sanctuary will conjure images of some place in California where illegal aliens are exonerated," Pendery said. "There is no policy or procedure in this county that is intended to do something like that."
 
Resident Kevin Gordon, who originally brought the issue to the attention of Coleman and the Fiscal Court, asked why Campbell County couldn't follow Kenton County's lead in having itself removed from the website. 
 
"We have asked them what evidence they received so we can address the evidence that placed us in this category in their eyes," Pendery responded. 
 
"We're trying to figure out why we're on that list to begin with," Franzen said. 
 
Other notes:
 
Coleman thanked State Senator Wil Schroder for his op-ed in support of keeping Chase College of Law on the Highland Heights campus of Northern Kentucky University rather than moving it to downtown Covington in Kenton County.
 
Commissioner Tom Lampe noted that Governor Matt Bevin appointed Ft. Thomas resident Todd Schneider to the Kenton County Airport Board. When that board was restructred by the state legislature last year, Campbell County was awarded one seat as was the governor's office. With Bevin's appointment of a Campbell resident, the county, in essence, has two. "He hopes to have a positive impact on the future of CVG Airport," Lampe said. "I think that it's great for Campbell County."
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Image via CIS website