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Metro Council President: No Sanctuary Status For Louisville

Louisville Metro Council president David Yates said the city doesn't need to adopt the moniker of a so-called sanctuary city.

Doing so, he said, could put Louisville "in the crosshairs."

Yates made the statement during an interview with reporters following Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's annual State of the City address. During the speech, Fischer championed the need to keep the city open to immigrants.

Tony Hyatt, spokesman for the council's majority Democratic caucus clarified Yates' position and said deeming Louisville a so-called sanctuary city could bring unwanted repercussions from Republican lawmakers that currently control the state legislature, as well as President Donald Trump, who's enacted sharp measures against immigration since taking office earlier this year.

Hyatt pointed to Austin, Texas — which is facing backlash from Republican state leaders over the county sheriff's vow to stop accommodating requests from federal immigration officials to identify or detain undocumented immigrants. Hyatt said Louisville doesn't need similar attention.

In Texas, the state's governor is keeping some $1.5 million in grant funding from Travis County in response to the sheriff's policy, according to a reportfrom NPR affiliate KUT.

"Why take the chance of having that replicated here," Hyatt said Friday.

'What we have been doing is working'

The call to label Louisville a so-called sanctuary city has surged recently. Residents called on Fischer to proclaim the city as such after a rally earlier this week that drew some 5,000 people downtown to show support for immigrants and refugees.

Fischer has shied away from doing so, but has continuously stressed the important role foreign-born residents play in the city's future economic success. He expects immigrants to help fill some 30,000 open jobs in the city and said this week "a great city must be a global city.”

The term sanctuary city is an ambiguous label for cities with policies or practices that deter or don't require local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials.

Fischer and Yates said local police don't seek out and arrest people based on their immigration status.

"We want to make sure Louisville is a place that's welcoming," Yates said. "What we have been doing is working."

In Louisville, local jail officials honor detainer requests (also known as an immigration hold) but only for a few hours, according to data from the Immigration Legal Resource Center.

report from the center lists the declaration of sanctuary city status as an important step in pushing a message of openness to immigrants.

“These declarations set a general tone for the city and expectations for residents,” the report states.

Louisville's foreign-born populationhas doubled every decade since 1990, Fischer said earlier this week. And currently, foreign-born residents make up about 7 percent of the city’s population.

That population in Louisville is projected to nearly double in the next decade, according to a report from the Kentucky State Data Center. By 2040, foreign-born residents are set to make up nearly a fifth of Louisville’s population, far outpacing the immigration of domestic-born residents to the city, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey.

It's unclear how those projections will be impacted by recent actionby President Trump to tamp down immigration and bolster deportation efforts.

On Thursday, the city's office for globalization tweeted photos of a few dozen residents holding welcoming signs at the Louisville International Airport.

"Today we welcomed the last refugee family resettled thru (Kentucky Refugee Ministries) for the next 120 days," the tweet read. "Welcome to Louisville."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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