Even though several strict immigration bills stalled in the Kansas legislature last year, legislators are expected to consider harmful immigration measures again this year. And after more conservative GOPers replaced several moderate Republican senators in the 2012 election, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the anti-immigrant official who wrote Arizona’s and Alabama’s extreme immigration laws, said he thinks state lawmakers will pass at least one of the anti-immigrant bills, according to the Wichita Eagle.
The Kansas legislature likely will consider four bills:
- One requires “state and local governments, and possibly private businesses, to vet employees through an electronic database;”
- another would mandate that “local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they come in contact with,” if the they suspect the person is undocumented;
- another bill “would prohibit any public benefits from going to anyone here illegally;”
- the final bill tries to undo a 2004 Kansas law that allows undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at state colleges.
Kobach said Kansas’ in-state tuition bill turned Kansas into “the sanctuary state of the Midwest” and that extreme immigration measures would force undocumented immigrants to self-deport, leaving jobs for unemployed Kansans. But Janeth Vazquez, communications coordinator for Wichita-based Sunflower Community Action, a pro-immigration reform group, said undocumented immigrants contribute more in taxes. And without immigrant workers, farmers in Western Kansas could suffer if they do not have enough workers — just like farmers in Alabama and Georgia after those states passed extreme self-deportation measures.
Even some Republicans are unsure of the harmful bills being floated ahead of the state legislative session that begins in two weeks. Michael O’Neal, the outgoing Republican speaker of the House and now president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber opposes forcing employers to get rid of hard-working employees because of their immigration status. “It turns good people into ones who will commit fraud to get a job and keep a job,” he said.
Last year, Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman sought a waiver from the federal government so that companies could hire undocumented workers, but Kobach dismissed any type of what he called state-level amnesty as illegal. “You might as well pass a law saying all Kansans should sprout wings and fly,” he said.
But while state officials and anti-immigrant conservatives may want to push for more extreme state laws, it’s clear that a comprehensive immigration reform plan that offers a path to citizenship would benefit all states by increasing the nation’s GDP and tax revenue. Congress needs to pass a law in order to address the issue nationally instead of continuing to have states pass their own immigration laws.