Senate Republicans followed through on a promise Tuesday to file a bill aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants in Kentucky.
State Sen. John Schickel, R- Union, sponsored the legislation, one of about a dozen bills Senate Republican leaders filed on the first day of the 2011 legislative session. GOP Senate President David Williams said many of the measures could be approved and sent to the Democratic-controlled House for consideration by week’s end.
Schickel’s proposal would allow police to arrest illegal aliens on trespassing charges for setting foot in Kentucky.
Critics complained the measure goes farther even than an Arizona immigration law that is facing legal challenges.
The Kentucky measure would allow police to determine the immigration status of people they detain. It also would allow illegal immigrants to be charged with trespassing if they are found on “any public or private land in this state,” an apt description of all property in the state.
“It’s much broader and much more harmful than the Arizona law,” said the Rev. Patrick Delahanty, head of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, which is opposing the bill. “This bill does nothing but turn people who are generally hard- working and lawabiding into criminals and drains resources from local governments and police departments that ought to be put into protecting citizens from serious criminals.”
The American Civil Liberties Union questioned the constitutionality of the legislation as well as its wisdom, considering Kentucky farmers rely heavily on immigrant labor.
“The impact on Kentucky specific industries such as tobacco and horse racing is hard to forecast, but it will likely be substantial,” said ACLU spokeswoman Kate Miller.
The Kentucky legislation also makes it illegal to harbor or transport illegal immigrants.
Delahanty said Republicans are trying to solve a problem with illegal immigrants that doesn’t exist in Kentucky. The Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center estimated last year that Kentucky has about 30,000 illegal immigrants, though people involved in the debate acknowledge that could be a conservative number.
Democratic House Speaker Stumbo told reporters last week that he will review the Senate’s proposal but that police already are authorized to check a person’s citizenship status and to take appropriate action. He said he would prefer legislation that Democrats are considering that would hold companies accountable if they hire illegal immigrants.
Stumbo said if employers can’t hire illegal immigrants, then they will move to other states.