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Panel Discusses Past, Present Of Intense Political Rhetoric

A University of Louisville panel on political discourse says today’s political divisiveness is not unprecedented.

Congressman John Yarmuth, outgoing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and political science professor Jasmine Farrier sat on the panel. Farrier said many people seem to have historical amnesia when decrying the intense and sometimes violent rhetoric in Congress and in the media.

“I don’t know why we don’t acknowledge that we have had political violence in this country,” she said. “We have had terrible divisions. The New Deal was called Socialist and Fascist when those words meant something. And yet we think back that that was a wonderful consensus moment. It wasn’t.”

Yarmuth agreed with Farrier, but said the increase in the number of media outlets and in the public’s access to media has exacerbated any problems. The panel was organized after the shooting rampage in Arizona that left six dead and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords seriously injured. Yarmuth said it’s too early to say exactly what motivated the alleged shooter, but three topics immediately surfaced and should be discussed.

“One was guns, one was mental health…and the possibility that something triggered in Jared Loughner the idea of going to shoot a government official. And we ought to debate all of those and the intersection of the three,” he said.

In her closing remarks, Farrier suggested the audience change the tone of the media by boycotting controversial hosts. Grayson added that news consumers should expand their horizons.

“Go to the other side, if you will, and read arguments in favor of a policy you think right now you don’t agree with or against a policy you agree with. There are plenty of great sites out there,” he said.

The full forum:

Audio MP3
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Local News Politics

Yarmuth Says Higher Security Would Protect Constituents

After Saturday’s shooting in Arizona, members of Congress are considering tightening security at public events.

Shortly before he walked into a public event, Third District Congressman Yarmuth said there has been a lot of discussion about security in the last week, and many representatives are most concerned about protecting their constituents, should more violence occur.

“It’s not necessarily our own safety, but it’s the safety of the citizens who come out to see us and talk with us,” he says. “That’s something that I think has probably not been as big a factor as it should be.”

Six people were killed in the shooting spree last Saturday. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded.

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Immigration Bill Clears Senate Committee

An immigration bill modeled after a similar law in Arizona has cleared a Kentucky Senate committee.

Senator John Schickel says federal authorities aren’t getting the job done when it comes to removing illegal aliens from Kentucky. So, he’s sponsoring legislation that would allow state and local police, upon reasonable suspicion, to check a person’s immigration status.

“If they determine that the person entered the country illegally, then that person is to be taken to federal authorities for deportation,” he says.

Schickel says the measure could not be enforced in a cavalier fashion.

“The law requires that it be a lawful contact,” he says. “Next, police discretion is authorized to make sure that there is reasonable suspicion. And lastly, as I said before, the circumstances has to be practical.”

Opponents argue the bill goes further than the Arizona law, which is already being challenged in federal court, and its costs have not been properly evaluated. Louisville Senator Perry Clark, sees no need for the bill.

“All this is current federal law. It’s on the books. I find most of this to be redundant and unnecessary. It will do nothing to advance solutions to real comprehensive immigration reform on the national level. It’s very divisive here. This is a terribly written law,” says Clark. “It’s terribly timed legislation. I vote no!”

Despite the concerns, the measure passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 8-3 vote and now heads to the Senate floor.

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Louisville Groups Protest AZ Immigration Crackdown

Opponents of  Arizona’s controversial new immigration law gathered in downtown Louisville Thursday to protest the legislation.    More than one hundred people marched from the federal building to Fourth Street Live, carrying signs and chanting slogans.   Protester Carina Varillas says she’s concerned the law would discourage victims of crime from seeking help, because they’ll be afraid of arrest and deportation.

“I cannot even imagine what it would be for somebody that is a victim of trafficking, a victim of domestic violence, of sexual assault, a little child that might be undocumented.”

The law would require immigrants to carry registration documents at all times.  It has been condemned by opponents as racist, but supporters say its needed to stem the tide of illegal immigrants entering Arizona.     It was supposed to go into full effect Thursday, but a last-minute federal injunction blocked its most controversial elements.

(Story and photo by WFPL intern Simon Levine)

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Coalition To Protest Arizona Law Outside Of Derby

by Gabe Bullard

Drivers and pedestrians heading to the Kentucky Derby may see demonstrators protesting the new immigration law in Arizona.

Among other things, the Arizona legislation allows law enforcement officers to ask anyone for proof of citizenship. The Kentucky May Day Coalition will pass out fliers denouncing the law at intersections around Churchill Downs.

Coalition co-convener Stephen Bartlett says the fliers highlight the role immigrants play in the horse industry.

“The whole Kentucky Derby could not take place without the immigrant workers who work in the horse industry at all levels, including even the jockeys,” he says.

Bartlett says the fliers will encourage people to call Senator Mitch McConnell and ask him to support federal immigration reform that’s friendly to immigrants.

“The system is broken,” he says. “Basically, the Arizona law is a terrible omen on what could happen to tear our society apart. A new Jim Crow Law, in effect, that’s going to take effect in three months in Arizona.”

The fliers will be distributed from 10 am to 1 pm.