Kentucky Senate passes controversial bill to prohibit immigration ‘sanctuary’ policies

FRANKFORT — The state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would bar state and local public agencies from enacting so-called sanctuary policies regarding illegal immigration, which could upend police protocols in Louisville.

Senate Bill 1, which now heads to the House, would bar Kentucky cities, public agencies, police and public universities from adopting policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities.

The bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 28-10, with only two Republican members voting against it and one Democratic member voting for it.

Proponents of SB 1, including main sponsor Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, say the measure will address the threat of undocumented immigrants trafficking drugs or using public resources, though opponents have called it a major expansion of law enforcement power that could lead to racial profiling and put families at increased risk of deportation.

When the bill passed out of committee last week, Carroll suggested Louisville’s policy limiting Metro Police officers from assisting federal immigration agents — unless a judge signs a warrant or there is a danger to the public — would be rendered void and unenforceable if SB 1 passed into law. However, the Trump administration previously ruled that Louisville’s policy does not violate federal immigration law or make it a “sanctuary city.”

Under questioning from Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, Carroll said he wasn’t aware of any Kentucky city having policies violating federal immigration law or instances of public officials refusing requests from federal immigration agents, but said his bill was a “preemptive measure.”

“In this chamber, often times we are left responding to problems that already exist,” Carroll said Tuesday. “Does it not make sense that for once we get in front of something and we set a standard, we set an expectation, we don’t wait for a city to declare themselves as a sanctuary city giving harbor to criminal aliens?”

Neal responded that the bill was unnecessary, and “the fact of the matter is that there is no problem in the commonwealth regarding the legislation that is being offered here that needs to be fixed.”

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said the legislation was more about “political ideology” and would do nothing to make Louisville or the rest of the state safer, adding that it “sends a signal that the welcome light isn’t on here” for immigrants.

“None of us are promoting illegal immigration. All of us are asking that our communities be safe,” McGarvey said. “This bill doesn’t help with either, and I think the negative impact this has could outweigh the positive impact this has.”

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, suggested that she would face attack ads highlighting her vote against SB 1, but argued the bill would greatly expand the duties of public officials and did not receive the backing of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.

Explaining his vote in favor of the bill, Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said, “I don’t think that we need our communities to have sanctuaries that hide people who are committing criminal acts of any type.”

After the passage of SB 1, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers told The Courier Journal he wasn’t sure whether Louisville’s “written” immigration policy for police would now be void, but suggested its “implied” policy could no longer be in effect.

“I think there is an implied wink and nod by certain statements, innuendos, policy initiatives that you don’t cooperate with federal agents on this,” Stivers said. “And I think that’s wrong.”

Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer, said the administration is disappointed with the vote.

“It’s an unnecessary measure. Louisville has proven you can be a welcoming city and still be in compliance with federal law,” she said. “This bill sends a terrible signal to the world, and if enacted, it surely will be a deterrent to businesses looking to locate here, talent seeking to move here, and tourists who might visit.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky issued a statement after the passage of SB 1 that called for the House to reject the legislation, as it “will lead to racial profiling and intimidation of Black and Brown Kentuckians.”

“Despite the many challenges our Commonwealth faces, the Kentucky Senate has prioritized and passed legislation that will separate Kentucky families,” stated Kate Miller, the group’s advocacy director. “Senate Bill 1 is dangerous and could have sweeping consequences for all Kentuckians.”

*story by the Courier Journal