A Kentucky lawmaker has proposed a bill that would strip state funding from cities and state universities that have so-called “sanctuary” policies that restrict cooperation with federal immigration enforcers.
Rep. Lynn Bechler, a Republican from Marion, said the legislation would target immigrants who are in the country illegally and the institutions that provide them with safe haven.
“What I’m trying to do is cut down on the issue of illegal immigration,” Bechler said. “Laws are laws and I think we should support the federal government.”
There were about 50,000 illegal immigrants in Kentucky — about 1 percent of the state’s population — in 2014 according to Pew Research Center.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, which describes itself as a “low-immigration, pro-immigrant” organization, Louisville is the only jurisdiction in Kentucky that has “sanctuary” policies.
Louisville is one of 23 cities and states to receive a request from the U.S. Department of Justice for documents dealing with local immigration policies. The DOJ has threatened to withhold nearly $588,000 in federal law enforcement funding for Louisville.
Louisville’s Metro Council recently passed a law changing the city’s immigration enforcement policies.
Under the ordinance, citizens won’t be questioned about their immigration status by police or city employees, and law enforcement will only assist federal immigration enforcement with a warrant signed by a judge or when there is as risk for danger or violence.
None of Kentucky’s public universities have official sanctuary policies, though the institutions say that federal privacy laws protect all students — including illegal immigrants — from having their information shared without a court order.
Bechler said his proposal would not require cities or schools to proactively report illegal immigrants, but “that is a good discussion we could have in the future.”
“It doesn’t require the cities or colleges and universities to do anything unnatural,” Bechler said. “It just says that they have to go ahead and cooperate with federal authorities when federal authorities are looking to do something with illegal immigrants.”
Under Bechler’s bill, citizens would be able to file a complaint that would trigger a hearing conducted by state officials to determine if a city or university has refused to cooperate with immigration authorities.
The bill would also hold local government officials besides police officers liable for damages incurred by undocumented immigrants in a “sanctuary” city or institution.
Bechler proposed the same bill in the 2017 legislative session, but it was never heard in committee.