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65,000 U.S. High School Graduates Per Year Are Undocumented, Unable to Enroll in College

In this week’s LEO Weekly, Joe Sonka wrote about the DREAM Act, through the story of a 19-year-old student who was brought to the USA, undocumented, at age 10. She now faces possible deportation if she tries to enroll in a university, and limited opportunities otherwise. Joe joined us on Friday afternoon’s State of the News & explained the Act, which would allow undocumented students to apply for citizenship through attendance at a 4-year university or enlistment in the military.

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Local News Politics

Indiana Attorney General to Defend Immigration Law From Permanent Injunction

The Indiana Attorney General’s office will continue to defend a controversial immigration law that was partially struck down by a federal judge last month.

The judge temporarily blocked provisions in the law that restricted immigrants’ use of identification provided by foreign consulates and allowed police to arrest anyone whose immigration status was in question.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law, which Attorney General Greg Zoeller says is necessary because the federal government isn’t doing enough to fight illegal immigration.

But Zoeller is not appealing the judge’s ruling at this time. Instead, he’s staying in district court to fight against the ACLU’s proposed permanent injunction against the law.

Zoeller’s office is appealing another loss to the ACLU, however. Also in late June, a judge issued a temporary injunction against a state law that stripped Planned Parenthood of its public funding. Zoeller quickly announced his intention to appeal that ruling.

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Local News Politics

Indiana Committee Drops Arizona-Style Provisions From Immigration Bill

Indiana’s proposed immigration bill no longer includes an Arizona-style provision that would allow police to ask the immigration status of people they believe to be in the country illegally.

The House Public Policy Committee made several changes Thursday to the bill proposed by Republican Senator Mike Delph. The panel could vote on the measure Friday.

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Local News Politics

Critics Say Senate Immigration Bill Will Be Expensive, Difficult To Enforce

Kentucky House hearings continue on a Senate immigration enforcement bill that puts the onus on law enforcement to determine a person’s immigration status.

Hopkinsville Police Chief Guy Howie believes the bill will increase costs because it will require additional training for police officers. He also fears it will put an additional strain on local jails.

“We are already releasing convicted felons early from prison,” he says. “Now we are going to inundate the local system with misdemeanor-type individuals that are committing possibly a victimless crime.”

Marilyn Daniel of a legal clinic in Lexington says there are many varying levels of immigration status, and that will make the law even more difficult to enforce.

“They could be an unauthorized alien on Monday and then they have permanent residence on Tuesday. So, this is a changing situation. In fact, a person could be an alien on Monday and a citizen on Tuesday,” she says.

The Senate bill, approved in January, remains in House committee. On Tuesday, the House voted 90-6 for an immigration bill that puts the onus on employers to determine the immigration status of their employees. That bill awaits Senate action

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Local News Politics

House Passes Bill That Requires Contractors To Verify Workers’ Immigration Status

The Kentucky House has approved an immigration enforcement bill offered by Representative Mike Cherry of Princeton. It requires employers contracting with public agencies to verify the immigration status of their workers.

“An agency furthermore shall cancel a contract if the contractor or subcontractor fails to maintain registration and participation in E-Verify during the term of the contract,” says Cherry. “Prior to receiving the final contract payment, a contractor and subcontractor shall submit a sworn affidavit they did not knowingly hire unauthorized alien employees.”

The bill flew through the House 90-6, with little debate. The six opponents were Democratic Reps. Johnny Bell, Tom Burch, Kelly Flood, Jim Gooch, Mary Lou Marzian and Jim Wayne.

“I have serious reservations about the E-Verification process,” says Marzian. “If there is a problem, or a false report that someone’s undocumented, then they will have to hire an attorney and possibly face a lot of really detrimental procedures.”

A Senate bill that puts the onus on law enforcement to verify the immigration status of suspected illegal aliens remains in a House committee.

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Local News Politics

Hundreds Rally In Opposition To Immigration Bill

About 300 people gathered in Frankfort Tuesday to protest an Arizona-style immigration bill making its way through the General Assembly.

The legislation gives local and state police broad authority to check the immigration status of people they suspect to be in the country illegally. The bill passed the GOP-controlled Senate, but faces an uncertain future in the Democratically-led House.

Senator Perry Clark of Louisville is one of the bill’s leading opponents. He says the legislation is unnecessary and expensive. The Legislative Research Commission estimated the bill would cost the commonwealth $89 million a year, primarily due to increased incarceration.

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Local News Politics

Lawmakers Return To Frankfort

The 2011 session of the Kentucky General Assembly resumes Tuesday in Frankfort.

Lawmakers met for four days in early January, mostly to elect officers, but the Senate also approved a host of bills backed by that chamber’s Republican majority.

In coming days, the Democratically-controlled House will take up the Senate bills, which address issues like immigration enforcement, charter schools, tax reform, Medicaid fraud and government transparency.

Governor Steve Beshear on Tuesday will deliver his fourth State of the Commonwealth address since taking office in December 2007.

The governor’s expected to urge lawmakers to raise the state’s dropout age from 16 to 18, and approve his plan for addressing a huge deficit in the Medicaid budget.

Only 26 days remain in the 30-day session, which began January 4th and is scheduled to adjourn on March 22nd.

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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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Naturalization Ceremony Held At Speed Museum

One-hundred forty-three foreign-born Kentuckians became naturalized U.S. citizens Friday in Louisville.

Immigrants representing 50 countries took the oath of citizenship at the Speed Art Museum. Among them was Hajira Begum, who moved to Louisville from India nearly a decade ago.

“My husband worked here and I’ve been here for the last nine years,” she says. “I guess I’m ready to call this my home. In another year I’ll be graduating and I’ll be working as a registered nurse.”

Unmarried civilians must legally live in the U.S. for five years before they can be naturalized. Ceremonies are held every month in Kentucky. The largest in the state is typically in September at the Louisville Worldfest, when about 300 immigrants become citizens.