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'The Welcome Sign Is Not On': Ky. Senators Debate And Pass Sanctuary City Ban

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

The polarizing national debate over immigration once again found its way into the Kentucky legislature Tuesday, as senators fleshed out opposing views on a bill barring communities from adopting sanctuary city policies.

The chamber delivered their top priority bill to the House on a 28-10 vote — with proponents arguing language calling on public employees to put forth their "best effort" to cooperate with legal orders from federal immigration officials is merely preemptive and meant to protect Kentuckians.

"I don't think that we need our communities to have sanctuaries that hide people that have committed criminal acts of any type," Sen. Paul Hornback said, defending the bill on the floor.

Much of the debate revolved around the question of undocumented immigrants and crime, and whether sanctuary policies help or hurt communities. Omar Salinas-Chacon, a DACA recipient who has actively opposed Senate Bill 1 this session, has disputed some of the characterizations on offer, saying they don't line up with the research.

"Most of the studies out there, studies by criminologists, top scholars, even the most conservative scholars of immigration, would debunk all the things being said about undocumented immigrants being criminals, about being a drain on the economy," he told WUKY following a committee hearing last week.

Proponents argued the bill provides much-needed flexibility for police and guarantees Kentucky doesn't miss out on millions in federal aid, should communities move to enact sanctuary policies.

"This bill will ensure that the political agenda stays out of law enforcement (and) federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies continue cooperation," bill sponsor Danny Carroll told colleagues.

Detractors foresee a chilling effect in immigrant communities and an unnecessary strain on local law enforcement and child welfare services. Noting the lack of any sanctuary cities in the commonwealth, other lawmakers said the measure couldn't help but invoke politics.

"Just because we say there's no political ideology here doesn't mean it isn't so," minority leader Morgan McGarvey said. "It sends a signal that the welcome sign isn't on."

Senate Bill 1 now moves to the Kentucky House for consideration.

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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