Kentucky GOP wants to ban undocumented students from state colleges

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The proposed anti-immigrant legislation could reportedly exclude those protected under DACA.

An anti-immigrant bill being pushed by the Republican majority leadership in the Kentucky Senate could reportedly make it all but impossible for state colleges and universities to accept undocumented students, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal and the ACLU.

The bill, if passed, would affect DREAMers, migrants brought to the United States as children, many of whom were given protective status under the last presidential administration.

Another bill, filed by a member of the House GOP majority, would expressly defund institutions that enroll undocumented students.

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State Sen. Danny Carroll (R) filed a bill on Tuesday, designed by leadership as its top-priority "SB 1," aimed at prohibiting so-called "sanctuary cities" in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As written, according to the ACLU of Kentucky, it would "deny college admission to students without proper identification, including DREAMERS."

In an email, Carroll denied that the bill would have this effect, saying it "does not address 'dreamers' in any way."

But Republican state Senate President Robert Stivers told the Courier-Journal that under the bill, those without legal immigration status "should not be" able to enroll at public institutions of higher learning. He said this ban should extend to DREAMers brought to the country when they were young through not fault of their own, many of who were granted protections by President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"That is also part of it, because individuals who came here illegally — one way or another — they should not be able to attain the status of a person who is here legally, either by birth or by the appropriate naturalization process," he told the outlet.

A similar bill, filed by state Rep. Les Yates (R), is even more explicit. It would expressly defund any state college or university that enrolls undocumented students.

Neither Stivers nor Yates responded to requests for comment about the bills.

The legislation comes days after Gov. Andy Beshear (D) succeeded former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. His office did not respond to specific questions about the proposed higher education exclusions, but did note an earlier statement saying they had "received and are analyzing the contents of (SB 1). As attorney general, Gov. Beshear assured there were no sanctuary cities in Kentucky, so that the state continued to receive federal dollars."

Such a statewide ban is not unprecedented. Georgia has implemented a prohibition on even DACA recipients enrolling at its top colleges and universities and a federal court recently declined to intervene to stop it.

Immigration advocates say the proposed legislation in Kentucky would be a huge attack on kids who have done nothing wrong.

"As undocumented people face unprecedented attacks from the Trump administration, local and state governments should be making it easier — not harder — for undocumented students to access higher education," José Alonso Muñoz, national communications manager for United We Dream, said Friday in a text message.

"Barring undocumented students from enrolling in colleges and universities is cruel," Muñoz added. "Education should be a human right, and local and state governments should be working to remove barriers for all who want it, regardless of citizenship status."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.