Op-Ed

Stop attacking Kentucky immigrants. ‘Sanctuary cities’ bill fails common-sense test.

Proposed bill to define ‘sanctuary city,’ forbid cities from becoming sanctuaries

Governor Bevin held a press conference announcing a proposed bill meant to define what was a sanctuary city, and set rules for Kentucky forbidding cities to institute individual rules for sanctuaries.
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Governor Bevin held a press conference announcing a proposed bill meant to define what was a sanctuary city, and set rules for Kentucky forbidding cities to institute individual rules for sanctuaries.

Earlier this month when massive immigration raids were supposed to take place in 10 cities across the country and never materialized, Gov. Matt Bevin jumped on the anti-immigrant bandwagon by introducing legislation to ban sanctuary cities in Kentucky. Flanked by law enforcement, he implored legislators to pass the measure “as soon as possible.” It’s the latest attempt to score political points on the backs of Kentucky immigrants and we shouldn’t stand for it.

Bevin says the provisions of the bill do three things: Clarifies state law regarding “sanctuary” policies by providing a precise definition of what he considers a “sanctuary” policy is; prohibits “sanctuary” policies in Kentucky and encourages federal-state-local law enforcement collaboration, and; grants the Commonwealth the authority to enforce these provisions.

But what the overly broad legislation does is require all state and local officials to “use their best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.” This requirement applies to an institution, administrator, governing board, chief, official, campus security personnel, administrative bodies, administrative body members, and representatives, agents and employees of an institution. Have you ever stood in line at your local county clerk’s office and thought, “These folks look like they have a lot of time on their hands available to do federal immigration work?” Yeah, no…

What’s more, this legislation could be very costly for your county because it significantly exposes municipalities to civil rights liability. The bill requires state and local governments to violate residents’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by requiring them to honor immigration detainers. Without the safeguards of a judicial warrant, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers often have resulted in the illegal detention of individuals who have not violated any immigration laws at all and are not deportable, including U.S. citizens and immigrants who are lawfully present in the United States. In fact, between 2008 and 2012 alone, ICE erroneously issued more than 800 detainers for U.S. citizens. There are numerous examples of local governments paying tens of thousands of dollars in settlements for unlawfully jailing someone under an improper ICE detainer. Your local law enforcement, and therefore your city/county tax dollars, not the federal government will bear the financial costs for unconstitutional actions.

Another frightening prospect is raised by the inclusion of “campus security authority” in this legislation. It requires campus law enforcement to support ICE efforts, threatening to open up the safe spaces that have been created by education administrators to raids and other ICE enforcement activities.

Ultimately, policies like this ban on sanctuary cities make us all less safe. Practices that this bill effectively mandates will deter undocumented individuals from helping police with investigations. Research shows that when local police and sheriffs transfer people to ICE for deportation, it discourages their U.S. citizen children, neighbors, co-workers, and friends, from reporting crimes and serving as witnesses. Many immigrants, regardless of status, fear interacting with law enforcement when they receive a risk of being deported or detained. Local police departments need to be accessible to all members of the public, regardless of their legal status, to ensure the public safety of all Kentuckians.

Kentucky faces a lot of challenges. We need to be using our precious time and resources to find solutions that promote safety and well-being in our communities. This legislation fails to pass this most basic common sense test by diverting much-needed local resources and people power to federal immigration law enforcement. We can do better.

Amber Duke is Communications Director at the ACLU of Kentucky.

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