A project of the Center for Community Change

Governor senses the end- Makes last desperate attempt…

Gov. Fletcher (KY) is in the hot seat, he may lose his position in the upcoming election and he can feel the end nearing. What better thing to do in your death throes than lash out at marginalized communities?

Gov. Ernie Fletcher wants illegal immigrants sitting in Kentucky’s prisons to be deported and has asked the federal government to provide the training to make it happen.

Immigration isn’t just a wedge issue, it’s an weak politicians bread and butter.

Fletcher calls for deportations

GOVERNOR ASKS FEDERAL HELP TO SPOT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN STATE LOCKUPS

By Steve Lannen
SLANNEN@HERALD-LEADER.COM

Gov. Ernie Fletcher wants illegal immigrants sitting in Kentucky’s prisons to be deported and has asked the federal government to provide the training to make it happen.

In addition, he said, he will seek legislation that would require checking the immigration status of anyone arrested and brought to a regional or county jail.

In a letter to Julie Myers, assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Fletcher asked that the federal agency train at least five state Department of Corrections employees to perform immigration enforcement actions under a provision in federal immigration law known as 287(g).

“We don’t want to be releasing illegal immigrants who are felons back into our community. It’s a public safety issue,” Fletcher said in a telephone interview yesterday. “We’re just making sure we’re not a safe haven for these individuals.”

The announcement comes only 40 days before the Nov. 6 election, causing Democratic opponent Steve Beshear’s campaign to describe the move as “a political stunt.”

“Ernie Fletcher has sat on his hands for the last four years on these issues, but now he’s chosen to do it six weeks before the election,” spokeswoman Vicki Glass said in a statement.

Still, she said, Beshear “supports” the governor’s request.

Fletcher’s campaign spokesman, Jason Keller, denied that the request has anything to do with the upcoming election, but said “you can certainly expect the governor to be talking about this more and more into the fall.”

Keller said the governor had been holding out hope that Congress would address the immigration issue. “He recognized that it was time to put forward some proposals and to take action,” Keller said. The governor’s office yesterday released a letter from Kentucky’s congressional Republicans, endorsing Fletcher’s request for federal training.

There are 460 foreign-born offenders in Kentucky prisons or on supervised release, according to a governor’s office press release. However, only 82 of them have an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer against them, the release said. Using statistics in other states, the governor predicted about three-quarters of the foreign-born offenders would be eligible for deportation if checked.

“The whole purpose is to authorize our corrections officers to do the screening,” said Andy Barr, deputy general counsel in the governor’s office. “We will seek ICE detainers and refer them” to federal authorities for deportation after the prisoner serves the sentence. The screening would be done at Roederer Correctional Complex outside of Louisville or at another centralized processing facility, he said.

Local authorities are also invited to attend the training, Barr said. The training will be paid for with federal funds, said state Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

Cori Hash, an attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center in Lexington, cautioned it could still be expensive for Kentucky.

Salaries and other costs associated could be the state’s responsibility, she said.

Kentucky could open itself to lawsuits or a public relations debacle if the wrong person is slated for deportation, as has recently happened in other states, Hash said.

“It’s not this perfect solution that some advocates paint it to be,” she said.

Stivers, who is the Senate judiciary chairman, is sponsoring legislation that would expand the program beyond the state prisons to regional and local jails.

If passed, the bill would create a team of state corrections officers who would be “on call” and would respond to local jails to determine whether a person is in the United States illegally. A person’s immigration status would be checked, and he could be slated for deportation whether he has been convicted of a crime or merely charged, Stivers said.

“I think it’s appropriate to do that,” he said. “I think it’s very appropriate to determine if they are here under a green card or have been naturalized … If not, why should we have the state of Kentucky become a safe haven for someone who is going to commit a crime?”

As of late June, law enforcement agencies in 11 states had sought ICE training, according to information on the federal agency’s Web site. No agency in Kentucky had sought the training before the governor’s action.

The issue has been discussed recently in Lexington where a mayoral commission has studied issues related to immigration this summer. A report, with an original Sept. 1 deadline, is now expected in mid-October, said Lexington-Fayette Public Safety Commissioner Tim Bennett through a spokeswoman. He deferred comment until the report is delivered.

Capt. Darrin Kelly, a spokesman for the Fayette County jail, said that jail officials have begun researching how to integrate 287 (g) training into their procedures in case it becomes a duty assigned to jailers.

“We don’t really have an opinion about it, but we are looking into it,” he said.

The Rev. Patrick Delahanty of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky called the governor’s moves “fear-mongering” and “scare tactics” as part of an effort to boost his chances for re-election in November.

“Undocumented people have become a football in the political world, and Gov. Fletcher is acting like quarterback,” he said. “He knows who he is playing to.”

Testy exchange

Gov. Ernie Fletcher had a sharp exchange yesterday with rival’s aide after a forum in Louisville

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