Arizona law could embolden immigration foes elsewhere

Lexington Herald-LeaderApril 28, 2010 

Arizona's tough new law aimed at illegal immigrants is rekindling debate about the issue in Kentucky, but there's little legislative sentiment to follow the Grand Canyon State's lead.

Lawmakers who have supported previous attempts to crack down on illegal immigration at the state level say the Kentucky General Assembly isn't likely to approve a law that allows local police to detain people they suspect are in the country illegally.

But they say recent developments should cause Kentucky to consider more carefully other legislative proposals aimed at the illegal immigration issue. "I've filed a number of bills to try to alleviate (the illegal immigration) problem in Kentucky and we've never got much traction on it," said state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington.

Members of the Lexington-based group Kentuckians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, which supports the Arizona law, say Kentucky lawmakers should first pass a measure that would penalize business owners if they don't verify the immigration status of their employees, said president Douglas Roy.

"We're not experiencing the level of violence that Arizona is seeing," Roy said. ''But we will if we don't do anything."

The renewed interest in illegal immigration is a worrisome development for immigrant advocates, who have successfully turned back previous attempts to enforce immigration laws at the state level.

Officials with the Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights issued a statement this week condemning the Arizona law as racial profiling and urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to prevent other states from following suit.

The group is also calling for federal intervention to keep the Arizona law from being enacted.

"We condemn the law and the fervor that went into passing it," said Rachel Newton, an immigration attorney and a board member for the coalition.

Newton said she was concerned about the law's effect on Kentucky.

"Fear makes way and ignorance makes way for these kinds of proposals to gain traction," she said.

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