FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Employees on the front lines of helping the sick or victims of sexual assault in Kentucky would be exempted from a high-profile immigration bill under changes its lead sponsor is making.
Republican Sen. Danny Carroll announced the pending changes Thursday in response to meetings with an immigration attorney and stakeholder groups.
The bill's overall intent remains the same — to prevent sanctuary policies at Kentucky's local level and require most public employees to use their “best efforts" to help enforce federal immigration laws, the Paducah lawmaker said. The measure is a top priority for state Senate Republicans.
One planned change would expand the number of employees exempted from the requirement to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Employees of domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, public defender offices and public health departments are among those being added to the exemption, Carroll, R-Paducah, told reporters.
The exemption would clear up the bill's potential conflict with some existing laws, he said.
“Those that provide those types of services, there is a requirement that they do that without asking immigration status," he said.
The broader exemption won't have an impact on enforcement efforts, he said.
“The reality of it is, these are not places that federal officials would go to for assistance anyway," Carroll said. “We felt like it was the right thing to do in an effort to consider the humanity and the human element of the impact of this bill."
The legislation already exempts public elementary and secondary schools.
New language also is being added to reaffirm that the bill would not obligate non-law enforcement personnel to take police-like actions to enforce immigration laws, he said.
“I think there were people out there that thought that the legislation would mean that they would actually be detaining people at their place of work — not having anything to do with law enforcement," the senator said. “Never the intent of the bill, and we hope that this clarifies that."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said Thursday that the proposed changes didn't soften its opposition to the measure.
Kate Miller, advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said last week that the bill seeks to “use our public agency employees as immigration agents." It also would lead to racial profiling and the separation of families targeted for deportation, Miller has said.
The bill's supporters denounced the criticism as “fear-mongering."
The measure, introduced on the first day of the legislative session, also would prohibit public entities including city and county governments from adopting sanctuary policies.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has noted that Kentucky has no sanctuary cities, but the bill's supporters have said the preemptive approach is needed.
Senate Republican leaders and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, also a Republican, said last week that the bill is needed for public safety.
In a Senate speech on Thursday to announce the pending changes, Carroll said the bill sends a message to illegal immigrants coming to Kentucky to engage in criminal activity: “You will not have asylum in the state of Kentucky,"
The bill has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The legislation is Senate Bill 1.