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Prohibition On Sanctuary Policies Advances To Kentucky Senate

Josh James

The Kentucky's Senate's top priority bill banning local sanctuary policies in the commonwealth may have become a lightning rod since its introduction, but Thursday the bill cleared a Senate committee on its way to the full chamber. And not without a vigorous debate.

Senate Bill 1 would mandate that most public employees — excluding those in public schools and an expanded list of other exempted groups — engage in their "best efforts" to conform to federal immigration law. The requirement to work in concert with legal requests by federal immigration officials effectively outlaws sanctuary policies, meant to shield undocumented immigrants.

Sponsor Danny Carroll argues the bill is not about immigration but maintaining interagency cooperation. And that intent, he says, is getting lost in media coverage.

"Our law enforcement is not going to go out and start looking for folks that are in this country illegally to arrest them on immigration violations," the Paducah senator said. "That's the scare tactic that has been used to try to get this bill defeated. That's not what this bill is about. There is no requirement that any agency do that."

But immigration advocates read something different in the language, and worry it could lead to racial profiling and deteriorating trust in immigrant communities.

"Even today I leave my phone on just in case I get that call," says Omar Salinas-Chacon, a DACA recipient who says he has undocumented family members. "It's a fear I've had since I moved here to the United States, but I know it's going to be an even greater fear that my family might get picked up on the way to work."

SB1 has already undergone significant changes since its debut, with new exceptions for employees at public advocacy offices, health departments, domestic violence shelters, and other agencies.

The current version cleared committee 7-2 with one pass vote. Carroll says the measure likely has enough support to make it through the General Assembly.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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