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Bill Banning Sanctuary Policies on Immigration Passes State Senate Committee

An amended version of the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020 advanced out of a Kentucky Senate committee on Thursday.

The legislation would prohibit law enforcement officials and other public officials from enforcing any sanctuary policy, a term applied to jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The measure is designated Senate Bill 1, an assignment reserved each year for bills deemed a priority of the Senate majority’s leadership.

“The question is, are we going to enforce the laws of this country and our commonwealth or are we going to ignore them?,” said Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah), while presenting SB 1 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “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 and local officials. That is what this bill is about.”

He called SB1 a preemptive measure.

“We don’t have cities that have been declared sanctuary cities by the federal government but ... we are heading that way,” said Carroll, a former police officer. “This bill sends a mandate that we are going to follow the law; we are going to cooperate with federal officials.”

SB 1 would also require law enforcement and other public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law. Carroll said the amended version of the bill expanded exemptions from local school districts to rape crisis centers, domestic violence centers and other groups that provide social services.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler (R-Pikeville) said he liked the exemptions.

“I want to commend the drafters for the fine work they have put into this bill,” he said. “I like the fact that there is an exemption put in here ... to show the humane component.

“We need to get the bad actors out, but we need to show compassion and protect the victims. I think the way this bill is narrowly drafted does that in a really outstanding way.”

Sen. Robin L. Webb (D-Grayson), who cast a “pass” vote on SB 1, questioned the effectiveness of a provision that would prohibit racial profiling. She expressed concerns SB 1 would stir more fear among immigrants.

“I’ve got some problems with this bill,” Webb said. “I hope we can get a remedy. If we want to address sanctuary cities, that is one thing, but this bill goes far beyond that.”

In response to concerns about certain provisions of SB 1, Carroll said the measure just reaffirms what’s already the law of the land.

“It is not the intent ... to prevent any person here illegally from requesting or getting the help they need,” Carroll said in reference to concerns SB 1 would discourage undocumented migrants from, among other things, reporting crimes perpetrated against them. He added that another provision would carve out protections for undocumented migrants who are victims or witnesses to crimes.

Rep. John Blanton (R-Salyersville) said he strongly supported SB 1 as a former law enforcement official.

“This does not change the way we are doing business in Kentucky today,” he said. “If this bill passes ... there isn’t going to be a run on going out and arresting someone in this state who is here illegally.”

Blanton said SB 1 simply states that sanctuary policies cannot be implemented in the future.

“Rest assured, this is a bill about law enforcement and protecting the cooperation between federal, state and local officials,” he said. “If we set the precedence not to allow that, what is next? Do we tell our law enforcement they can’t participate with the DEA or the FBI or the U.S. marshals’ service? Where does it end?”

Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) also spoke in support of SB 1.

“If we are going to start not cooperating with federal law in this issue then where does it end?,” he said.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton) concurred with West.

“I think it is a slippery slope,” Westerfield said of not complying with federal immigration laws. “I’m not saying it is not complex. It is, but I think it sets a dangerous precedent.”

SB 1 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

From the Legislative Research Commission

Photo: Rep. John Blanton (R-Salyersville) (left) and Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah) explaining an amended version of Senate Bill 1, titled the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020 (LRC)