Mississippi, well-aware of how HB 56 in Alabama turned out, is wary of proceeding with its own anti-immigrant bills. Texas is backing away from last year’s push to crack down on immigrants. Even Georgia is seeking to make changes to its current legislation.
Kansas, however, it seems is another matter. The home state of Kris Kobach, architect of anti-immigrant laws like Alabama’s HB 56 and Arizona’s SB 1070, is apparently insistent on passing a nativist law or two to call their own. If Kobach’s name sounds familiar for other reasons, it’s probably because he was also the immigration advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign and helped devise Mitt’s “self-deportation” strategy. You know, the one that led to Romney losing Latino voters to President Obama by a 23% – 75% margin. Now it appears that Kobach wants to do to the rest of the GOP–and to Kansas–what he did for Mitt Romney.
From Think Progress today:
Even though several strict immigration bills stalledin 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.
Many Kansas Republicans, however, do not share Kobach’s zeal. According to the Wichita Eagle, outgoing speaker of the House Rep. Michael O’Neal has spent a lot of time fending off hard-line anti-immigrant bills that he felt would damage the economy, especially in the parts of the state where agriculture is a crucial industry. Anti-immigrant laws in Georgia and Alabama have scared away much-needed workers, leaving farmers short during harvest time and ruining millions of dollars in unpicked crops. And last year, Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman petitioned the federal government to grant the state a waiver that would allow companies to legally hire undocumented workers. In light of those facts, some Republicans believe that anti-immigrant laws like the kind Kobach is pushing would only be anti-business and damaging to the economy.
In his interview with the Wichita Eagle, Michael O’Neal said that he supported immigration laws that ID’d immigrants to employers and kept them away from federal immigration enforcement. He said that immigrants shouldn’t be forced to self-deport just because of their immigration status. “We can’t kick them out and we can’t just ignore them,” he said. “There’s got to be a plan. I hate it that we have a system in place where we put good people at risk because we can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys.”
As for Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State may want to reconsider this blog that we wrote yesterday, about Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her continuing refusal to grant driver’s licenses to qualified DREAMers. This week, the Illinois State House passed the opposite of her edict, a bill that will allow all undocumented immigrants in the state to apply for driver’s licenses. And the #1 hot legislative topic for Congress and the President to tackle this year is immigration reform–in the Michael O’Neal vein, rather than the Kris Kobach vision. It’s becoming very clear which direction the future is heading–and who will be the irrelevant, angry, unheard nativists left behind.