FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Enlisting Kentucky police in a crackdown on illegal immigrants could cost taxpayers $89 million a year, raising additional objections Wednesday from critics of a proposal that is halfway through the legislative process.
Staffers in the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission posted the cost estimate. The legislation would give local and state police agencies broad authority under federal law to check the immigration status of people they stop.
State Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, warned that Kentucky may face an even higher cost if it does nothing while other states pass laws that end up forcing illegal aliens to move.
"If we do nothing, we risk the danger of becoming a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants," he told the House Local Government Committee.
The latest cost estimate is more fodder for critics that say the bill is even tougher than a similar Arizona immigration law that has drawn boycotts and legal challenges.
The Kentucky proposal cleared the Senate on a 24-14 vote last month. Supporters argued illegal immigrants, estimated at between 30,000 and 50,000 in Kentucky, sap government services, and using local and state authorities to enforce federal laws could save the state government's social programs some $50 million.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and other Democratic leaders have questioned the bill, leaving it to face a dim future.
The measure would allow Kentucky law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of someone who is stopped for another reason, such as a traffic offense, and who is suspected of being an illegal immigrant. The proposal also would allow police to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges for simply setting foot in Kentucky.
Richard Tanner, executive director of the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association, said the legislation would place an unfunded mandate on county governments who would have to pay the cost of holding illegal immigrants in jail until they would get reimbursement from the federal government.
State Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said the LRC estimated the additional cost to county jails at $26 million a year. Wayne, a critical of the legislation, urged his colleagues in the House to closely review the costs before voting on the measure.
"I'm really concerned about the numbers I'm seeing before us today," Wayne said.
The LRC staff concluded that, with the estimated $50 million in savings to social programs, the actual costs to state and local governments for implementing the bill may be closer to $40 million a year.
Schickel dismissed the cost estimates as unreliable.
"The cost is indeterminable," he said. "They really don't know."
The legislation is Senate Bill 6.Tags: