Kansas is considering new legislation, supported by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that mirrors Arizona's controversial "Show Me Your Papers" immigration law. (Photo : US Deptartment of Justice)
A new law modeled after Arizona's controversial S.B. 1070 law could have a direct impact on Kansas immigrants if legislators in the Sunflower State decide to pass it.
The Kansas House Judiciary Committee will take a vote this week to decide whether or not to adopt a law similar to Arizona's controversial "show me your papers" immigration law.
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The law has been supported by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican who helped write the Arizona law and similar legislation in Alabama. Under the Arizona law, officers are allowed to pull over immigrants during traffic stops and ask for proof of citizenship.
The law was challenged in the Supreme Court in 2010, but the "show me your papers" part of the law was upheld while other parts of the bill were struck down.
Kobach, a former advisor to ex-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has also planned to push for a law in Kansas requiring all voters to show photo identification when voting. The elections in November marked the first time that Kansas had implemented a large-scale photo ID during balloting.
Out of 1,182,771 votes cast, Kobach states, only 838 provisional ballots, or 0.07 percent, were issued due to lack of sufficient photo ID at the time the vote was cast.
"I watched the voting process at several polling places, and multiple voters expressed their support for the law," Kobach said in a statement on his monthly newsletter "Canvassing Kansas" in December.
In addition, Kansas will listen to other pieces of proposed legislation, including one that would require government agencies and others to verify an employee's immigration status.
Another bill being considered would prevent undocumented immigrants from getting public health benefits, while the legislature will also discuss repealing a 2004 law that allows young undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Kansas colleges and universities.
Senator-elect Michael O'Donnell told Kansas news agency KWCH while immigration will be discussed, it's not high on the agenda.
"When we have so many other issues to tackle, especially with the budget, with education, the judicial system here in Kansas," he said. "We have so many other issues that are more pressing right now than looking at extending further immigration bills in Kansas."
Critics of the legislation say that Kansas would be promoting racial profiling and creating added expenses for small businesses and rural communities that depend on immigrant labor.
"If you're going to base that reasonable suspicion on the hue or the color of another person, I think that's stretching it. Not only is it stretching it, it's just simply illegal," said Democratic Rep. Melody McCray-Miller told KAKE.com.
Allie Devine, vice-president of the Kansas Livestock Association, added that such rules would cost rural communities and tax payers in the state "a lot of money. Many of these rural areas don't have enough resources today to do basic enforcement."
Republican Rep. Gene Suellentrop supports the legislation, but has concerns that certain clauses in it would punish businesses for improper use of the E-Verify system that checks the immigration status of workers.
"I think we need to address those that are habitual violators of our immigration laws. This particular bill, I have some concern with some of the provisions in it," said Rep. Suellentrop to KAKE.