Protesters decry Kentucky illegal immigration bill
Posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 8:01 pm
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators braved freezing temperatures outside the Kentucky Capitol on Tuesday to protest a bill aimed at jailing illegal immigrants.
“It’s senseless,” said Panama native Vivian Marin, who now lives in Kentucky. “Kentucky is a very diverse state. If we allow for a bill to pass here similar to the one in Arizona, it would be a tragedy.”
The Kentucky legislation, which some argue is even tougher than a much-debated law in Arizona that’s being challenged in court, would give local and state police agencies broad authority to check the immigration status of people they suspect of being in the country illegally.
The measure sailed through the Republican-controlled Senate last month but faces strong opposition in the Democratic-controlled House.
State Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, one of the leading opponents of the measure, called it “absolutely unnecessary” in a state that where illegal immigrants are estimated to make up fewer than 1 percent of the population.
“This is a pretense,” Clark said, standing among demonstrators, some waving “We Are America” placards. “This whole thing is about elections, and not about humans.”
The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission estimated that the legislation, if passed, would cost Kentucky about $89 million a year, primarily from holding more people in jails.
State Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, warned last week that Kentucky could face an even higher cost by doing nothing while other states pass tougher laws against illegal aliens. Kentucky, Schickel said, could become a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants. The proposal, sponsored by Schickel, cleared the Senate on a 24-14 vote last month. Supporters argued illegal immigrants, estimated at between 30,000 and 50,000 in Kentucky, sap government services.
They also contend that passing the legislation could save Kentucky’s social services programs some $50 million.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and other Democratic leaders oppose the bill, leaving it to face a dim future in the Kentucky legislature.
The measure would allow Kentucky law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of someone who is stopped for another reason, such as a traffic offense, and who is suspected of being an illegal immigrant.
The Kentucky Magi-strates and Commissioners Association oppose the measure, saying it will increase the cost of operating county jails.
An estimated 300 people took part in the demonstration Tuesday on the front steps of the Capitol, including Louisville resident Mary Ann Weisenberger, sporting a sweatshirt asking “Do I look undocumented to you?”
“We all live in this world together,” Weisenberger said. “And we should work together to make this world a better place instead of trying to mess things up with legislation like this.”
The legislation is Senate Bill 6.
Published in The Messenger 2.9.11