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CCK Statement on SB 130 Jan

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky has released the following statement regarding Senate Bill 1.

SB 1 is part of an ongoing national debate that arises because of the complete failure of the U.S. Congress and several consecutive presidential administrations to update federal immigration law in light of the reality on the ground. This dereliction of duty has created a seemingly impossible situation for both immigrants in difficult circumstances and for law enforcement agencies working to ensure public safety. I believe both sides of the debate over SB 1 can agree on that.

We want to acknowledge the sponsor and his stated intent to promote public safety. We appreciate his willingness to amend the bill to address some of the concerns that have been raised. However, we still must oppose the bill.

While we understand the desire to ensure that law enforcement can do their jobs and ensure public safety, SB 1 is based on a fundamentally flawed narrative that says that it is immigrant communities that are especially responsible for crime and particularly the opioid epidemic that plagues our Commonwealth. While certainly there are immigrants who commit crimes, and those individuals should be brought to justice, it is simply not true that greater immigration enforcement will solve these problems. In fact, numerous studies show that immigrants, both documented and undocumented, actually commit criminal offenses at a lower rate than native-born American citizens.

One thing that is true, however, is that immigrants are, at least as much as native-born citizens, prone to be victims of crimes. When local law enforcement, and especially when non-law enforcement agencies, are charged with immigration enforcement responsibilities, immigrants do not have a place to go when they are victimized. Essential services need to be available to all if we hope to address the needs of victims and truly address our drug and other criminal problems.

It may be tempting to say that if someone is “illegal,” they shouldn’t have access to services. And that may make sense for certain welfare programs that place significant burdens on taxpayers. But, the right to call on law enforcement when one is a victim of crime should not be denied anyone. And, please bear in mind that many families and households are “mixed-status,” meaning they have members who are legal residents or citizens, but also contain members who are currently undocumented. In an environment of over-zealous immigration enforcement by those not properly charged with those duties, even citizens and legal residents might feel unable to avail themselves of essential public services.

We urge the General Assembly to seek out constructive ways of dealing with Kentucky’s problems. SB 1 is not such a proposal and should be rejected.

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