Kansas unveils Arizona-like bill targeting illegals

by
February 20, 2011

By DAVID KLEPPER, Kansas City Star

TOPEKA | Kansas joined Arizona on the front lines of one of America’s hottest political debates Thursday when conservative state leaders introduced legislation targeting illegal immigrants.

Modeled after Arizona’s controversial law on illegal immigration, the bill proposes several measures to deal with a problem that supporters contend the federal government has too long ignored. The proposed legislation would:

•Require local police to check the legal status of those they suspect might be in the U.S. illegally.

•Require proof of citizenship for anyone seeking public assistance.

•Make it illegal to harbor illegal residents and bolster the penalties for making fake identifications.

•Insist that state and local governments and their contractors run citizenship checks on all new hires.

Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, wrote the bill with Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican. Both said the bill took some provisions of Arizona’s law — known as SB 1070 — and added other pieces from earlier proposals in Kansas.

Kobach helped write the Arizona law. Many of its provisions were blocked by the federal courts. Still, Kobach said he thinks the Kansas bill is on solid legal ground.

Kobach predicted the bill would pass, thanks to last November’s election, which put more conservatives in the Legislature and Republican Sam Brownback in the governor’s office. Brownback has yet to weigh in on the bill.

“I heard from many, many constituents last fall that Kansas needs an SB-1070-style bill in Kansas,” Kobach said. “The political climate has become much more receptive to these types of proposals.”

With anti-illegal sentiment running high across the nation, lawmakers in several other states also are looking to implement parts or all of the Arizona law. In addition, Kansas lawmakers are considering repealing a state law granting in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants and requiring voters to show identification to crack down on illegal immigrant voter fraud.

Like those measures, the new Arizona-style bill is likely to pass the conservative-led Kansas House. But political observers said it could run into challenges in the more moderate Senate.

Senate Vice President John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said he thinks it is foolish to consider Arizona-style reforms now while that state’s new laws are entangled in legal challenges.

“Why would we go down the same road as Arizona until there’s a determination in the federal courts?” Vratil asked. “It’s silly as far as I’m concerned. All we’re going to do is get sued.”

Key to the legislation’s passage is a compromise designed to ease concerns from the state’s business community.

Three years ago, lawmakers proposed requiring all businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to check the citizenship of new hires. Those that refused would face fines. But business and agriculture groups loudly complained and the bill died.

This year’s bill, however, requires only state and local government and their private contractors to use E-Verify.

“We tried to strike a reasonable balance,” Kinzer said.

While the Kansas Chamber of Commerce would prefer federal immigration reform, the group said in a statement Thursday that Kinzer “has addressed some major points of contention within our membership.”

Despite the compromise, many businesses will still oppose the law, predicted Mira Mdivani, president of the Corporate Immigration Compliance Institute and an immigration attorney in Overland Park.

Mdivani worried that businesses making even unintentional mistakes with E-Verify could face felony perjury charges and lose their business licenses for three years. She said Kansas leaders should focus instead on the state’s budget crisis or the sluggish economy.

“It’s such a waste of the scarce resources of our state, especially now,” Mdivani said. “In a time when we’re all concerned about government spending and business regulation, they want to do this?”

Critics of the Arizona law argue that local police don’t have the training, time or resources to enforce federal immigration law.

To read more, visit: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/02/17/2664323/kansas-unveils-arizona-like-bill.html#ixzz1EPIJ7216

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