LEXINGTON -- Gov. Matt Bevin on Friday proposed legislation that would prohibit sanctuary cities in Kentucky.
The legislation would ban local governments from enacting policies that impact how local police can cooperate with other law enforcement groups such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bevin said.
Bevin, Republican state lawmakers, Lexington Fraternal Order of Police members and state Homeland Security officials gathered at a joint news conference in Lexington Friday afternoon.
Sen. Danny Carroll of Paducah and Rep. John Blanton of Salyersville, both former law enforcement officers, are co-sponsoring the legislation.
Carroll, a former Paducah assistant police chief, emphasized the urgency to address sanctuary policies.
"For me, this is not a statement about immigration policy in any way. It goes no further than allowing law enforcement to do what they are required to do by law, by the oath that they swore. ...
"I have no doubt there will be more read into this bill than what there is," Carroll said. "From a law enforcement perspective, it is imperative that we get this passed; that we set a clarity now before things happen in the future that could impact our law enforcement's ability to enforce the law. … We owe it to our citizens. It is a tenant of state government to protect the safety of our citizens."
Blanton, retired Kentucky State Police major, added: "This is to prevent some policies that may be placed by elected officials that ties their (officer's) hands, that makes it unsafe for the officers, that makes it unsafe for each of you, the public. This bill does not laser-target anyone. … This bill simply explains what sanctuary cities means."
Bevin also denied the bill had anything to do with immigration, stating "America is made great by its diversity."
"That said, we also have to ask ourselves, why is it that people want to come here, why is it that so many people, both legally and illegally, have wanted to come to the United States, versus other places. Ironically, it's because we are a nation of laws."
Bevin said the purpose of the bill is to define "sanctuary" and clarify the law.
Carroll said he doesn't believe any city in Kentucky is currently a sanctuary by the bill's proposed definition. However, Louisville has an ordinance in place that forbids Metro Police officers from assisting federal immigration agents.
The Trump administration in April 2018 determined Louisville is not a sanctuary city and is not in violation of federal law, following a review of the ordinance by the Department of Justice.
Mayor Greg Fischer's spokeswoman, Jean Porter, said in a statement Friday: "As we have said before, Louisville is both a welcoming city, and in compliance with federal and state law. We will review and monitor the bill."
The Associated Press and the Louisville Courier Journal contributed to this report.