A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Senate passes bill requiring Kentucky cities to cooperate with federal immigration officials


By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Legislation requiring state and local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration officials passed the Kentucky Senate on Tuesday.

The measure, known as the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act, would ban the creation of sanctuary cities in Kentucky and forbid local governments from enacting ordinances that would allow them to refuse to cooperate with federal agencies.

It would also require all state officials to cooperate, if requested to by federal immigration agencies, according to its sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, who said there are some agencies who would not be affected, naming domestic violence centers, children’s advocacy centers, rape crisis centers, public advocacy groups, health departments and school districts.

Sen. Danny Carroll is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1 that requires state and local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration officials. It passed the Senate on Tuesday. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

Colleges and universities would not be exempt, but Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, proposed an amendment adding them to the list.

“We have well over 1,000 students attending our public colleges and universities, who are all but United States citizens,” Thomas said during floor debate. “The only differences between them and my children is that some of them arrived when they were three- or six-months-old. They speak English as well as my children. They are Americans in every sense of the word.”

However, his amendment failed on a voice vote.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville noted even Carroll admitted there are no sanctuary cities in Kentucky and knows of no instance where local law enforcement refused to help federal authorities, and stated he has other issues with language of the bill.

“There is no definition of what a ‘legal and valid request’ is, in terms of requiring public employees to assist in response to a request from federal agents, and that’s important,” Neal said. “We’re also in a situation where someone has to make a judgement on what constitutes ‘best efforts.’ Is it in the eye of the beholder? I would submit that it is in the eye of the beholder.”

Neal’s bottom line, “There is no problem in the Commonwealth of Kentucky regarding the legislation offered here, that needs to be fixed. Not this legislation.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, also expressed opposition, saying it could affect her job as a criminal defense attorney.

“This bill expands jurisdiction and expectations for law enforcement and many others, including us as public officials,” she said. “As a member of the Bar, as many of my colleagues are, could put us into conflict with our clients,”

The bill passed 28-10, with two Republican Senators, Tom Buford of Nicholasville and Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington, joining the chamber’s Democrats in voting “no”.

The bill now heads to the House.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1.


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