Local advocates want licenses for illegal immigrants

Members of various Kentucky organizations met yesterday afternoon and discussed concerns about Lexington’s Commission on Immigration report, which was released on Tuesday.

The commission presented a list of seven recommendations earlier this week to address immigration issues in Lexington, but most of yesterday’s discussion focused on  two recommendations Mayor Jim Newberry said he opposed: giving illegal immigrants ID cards and allowing them to obtain driver’s licenses.

Kerby Neill, a representative from the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, said allowing immigrants to have driver’s licenses makes the city safer for all citizens.

“We have many persons driving without licenses who need to drive for all the reasons the rest of us drive,” Neill said. “They need to be trained, understand the rules of the road and insured. That does not grant them legal status in our country. It makes our roads much safer for all of us.”

Neill spoke at the Lexington-Fayette Government Center and commended the commission and Newberry, saying they tackled a controversial issue and have made more progress than Congress on topics concerning immigration.

“Our immigration laws are generally good, but their details are out of touch with reality,” Neill said. “I applaud the commission’s spirit to remain a welcoming community until national legislation brings more clarity to our immigration issues.”

The commission also heard from 12 other speakers on behalf of organizations, including a representative of Lexington’s Catholic community.

Sister Sandra Delgado spoke on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington and said the recommendations reflected the principle of respect for all people.

“The commission has studied the issue from all aspects and has made recommendations that are for the good and safety of all who live in Lexington,” she said. “While this commission was not driven by religious values, their recommendations recognize the respect and dignity due to all persons as children of God.”

Many of the groups at yesterday’s meeting pledged their cooperation to the recommendations, including the Community Action Council.

Marissa Castellanos, the council’s center manager, said the organization would welcome collaboration with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

“These recommendations provide insightful guidance as Lexington continues to define itself as a fair and welcoming city,” Castellanos said. “Community Action Council will continue to advocate for fair and equal treatment of our immigrants and refugees as the LFUCG considers action on the commission’s recommendations.”

The next step for the commission is to start educating people about the recommendations, said Brian Rich, a member of the Commission on Immigration.

“The plan is to move ahead, get people to buy in and get these recommendations implemented into reality,” he said.

Continuing the discussion on immigration is vital for Lexington, Rich said.

“The worst thing that could happen to our community is to shut down this discussion,” he said.