Kentucky lawmakers begin debate of immigration bill

The Lexington Herald-LeaderFebruary 3, 2011 

FRANKFORT — House Democrats on Wednesday began the process of talking Senate Republicans' illegal immigration bill to a standstill, with much discussion about its potential cost but no vote scheduled.

"We can't just be emotional and have vile hatred at work. We have to look at the fiscal implications, that's what we're required to do," said Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, chairman of the House Committee on Local Government, which held its first discussion-only hearing on the bill.

Another discussion-only hearing is planned next week, featuring the concerns of law enforcement, but it's "unknown" whether the committee ever will vote on the bill, Riggs said.

Senate Bill 6 would make it a state crime — a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances — for illegal immigrants to enter Kentucky, or for anyone to harbor or transport them or encourage their residency in the state.

It would authorize police to approach people in public and ask about their immigration status.

The resulting arrests would burden local jails already running out of funds, jail and county officials told the House committee. Kentucky has about 19,200 jail beds, 98 percent of which were occupied as of last week, they said.

"I definitely think that Senate Bill 6 has an unfunded mandate to it," said Richard Tanner, executive director of the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association. "We don't know how much the costs would be. We just know we're at the breaking point now."

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