Campus Reacts to Immigration Legislation

by Erin Brock

A controversial immigration bill that would make it a state crime for illegal immigrants to be in Kentucky will be the topic of an informational session for Transylvania students, faculty and staff on Monday.

The Rev. Patrick Delahanty, executive director for the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and political activist, will lead the discussion about the immigration enforcement bill, which passed the state Senate in early January and is now under consideration in the Kentucky House of Representatives. The session will be at 12:30 p.m. in Conference Room A in the campus center.

Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Republican John Schickel of Union, would enable law enforcement officials to charge illegal immigrants with trespassing if caught in the state. The bill would also allow police offers to ask about an individual’s immigration status during “lawful contact,” and it would make it a crime to smuggle illegal aliens for profit and to hide, transport, encourage or otherwise help them. Efforts to reach Schickel for comment were unsuccessful.

“It (the bill) makes Kentucky look backwards, and that’s not the image we want,” said junior Abby Dority, who is spearheading a student-backed effort to protest the bill during a rally Feb. 8 at the state Capitol. “It will tear communities apart by creating mistrust based on racial characteristics. It’s not just discouraging goodwill and charity, it’s punishing it.”

Such issues are key to the research of Transy sociology professor Dr. Brian Rich, who is currently teaching a course on the sociology of Mexican immigration. He said the Kentucky bill is “unconstitutional” and could evoke greater controversy than similar immigration enforcement laws recently introduced in the United States, including an Arizona law that sparked nationwide debate.

“The bill is worse than the Arizona SB 1070 that is already tied up in court. Both bills (and those being passed or proposed in 24 states now) appear to be unconstitutional because they infringe on the jurisdiction of the federal government to control national migration policy,” Rich said. “That is the federal government’s responsibility. The federal migration system is broken, all sides agree. What divides the country is what to do.”

Students around campus have taken note of the potential addition of such a law to the state’s books. In addition to the constitutional issues, the financial well-being of Kentucky has been called into question.

“Kentucky can’t afford this law,” Dority said. “So many of our industries depend on labor from aliens, such has the horse industries, agriculture, hospitals, nursing homes, and other service outlets.”

Dority is encouraging participation in the rally in Frankfort and will be arranging rides at the informational session on Monday for people to go together. It begins at 11 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.

“It would be really excellent if we could get a large showing of Transy students,” she said. “People all over the state are organizing information meetings about the bill in order to make clear what a terrible proposal this is, as a way of generating a large crowd on Feb. 8.”

While the future of the bill is uncertain, concerns are likely to remain.

“The bigger ‘what comes next’ is continuing education about the situation, building support for our immigrant community, changing minds and hearts about how important they are, and changing the tenor of discussion from raucous and mean to civil and education,” Rich said. “And most of all, pressuring our federal government to create a smart, rational, and humane immigration policy, that is desperately needed.”

For more information on the informational session or the planned rally, contact Dority at


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