Lexington org. prepared for fallout from potential ICE crackdown

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Lexington-area advocates are prepared for any fallout locally from a potential crackdown on immigration enforcement this weekend.

Photo: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Officials say federal immigration raids are expected to start Sunday in communities around major cities like Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. Agents are expected to target around 2,000 people who already have deportation orders.

It is unclear what, if any, impact the raids could have on the Lexington area.

Still, the Community Response Coalition, a social work organization that helps the families of people who have been arrested or deported for immigration reasons, says they are always ready to help families left behind.

"Emergency response is our average day," said Dominique Olbert, the coalition's program director. "So we're cautiously optimistic that the raids will hopefully not reach us right away, but we don't know. And we're set up for the eventuality that it might be. We have our volunteers ready to go, phone activated, all the materials we need - and we can help."

The coalition was launched in September 2018. Olbert said they have already helped numerous families with loved ones arrested or deported.

The group also offers a preparedness checklist - in English and Spanish - to help families take steps beforehand. The coalition emphasizies that it is a social work organization that stays out of the politics of immigration.

But immigration and its enforcement continue to be big issues in policy and politics, nationally and statewide.

Gov. Matt Bevin and other Republican lawmakers announced their support on Friday for a new bill that would ban sanctuary cities in Kentucky. The bill would prohibit local governments from enacting policies which would prevent law enforcement agencies from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"Ask the mayors of our two larger cities whether they think they're sanctuary cities they'll be very quick to tell you that they're not," Gov. Bevin said, "but we also don't want a slippery slope whereby we say we're not, we intend not to be, and yet we've directed law enforcement this way, that way, to the degree that we by the perception of some be such a thing, so it's just to clarify and get out in front of it."

State law enforcement and homeland security leaders threw their support behind the bill along with members of the Fraternal Order of Police. Gov. Bevin argues local politicians have proposed policies which would discourage cooperation between local and federal authorities, but he also said Kentucky currently doesn't have a problem adhering to federal immigration laws. The governor's office says Kentucky would join at least 10 other states in enacting a "sanctuary city" ban if the proposed legislation becomes law.

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday toured two detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border that house those caught crossing the border illegally. Pence called on Congress to act, demanding more money to support Customs and Border Protection to ease overcrowding at the facilities and to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

A crowd in Lexington joined 700 other cities for a vigil Friday night, protesting detention centers at the southern border and other U.S. immigration policies.

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