Topeka Kansas should not allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses or pay cheaper, in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Barnett said Tuesday.
Barnett, speaking to reporters by telephone from Washington, D.C., criticized Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for signing a 2004 law granting in-state tuition to qualifying students who are illegal immigrants and for her past support of legislation allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.
"I think the key is partnership. We need to partner at the state level with the federal government to make our immigration policy and enforcement more effective," Barnett said. "That includes our support at the border to have a safe and secure border."
Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran disputed Barnett's claim that the state wasn't working in good faith with the federal government.
"We at the state level have been a good partner," Corcoran said. "Whether it's accepting an offer from the Department of Defense to visit our troops in Iraq, working to get relief for our state or sending troops to help secure the border once the mission was clear, Kansas has absolutely been a good partner under the leadership of this governor."
Sebelius has said the tuition law will help longtime Kansas residents who are seeking citizenship. She has said the issue about driver's licenses is moot because of a federal law enacted last year that requires states to begin verifying whether license applicants are legally in the United States by 2008.
Barnett leveled his criticisms the same day Sebelius began airing radio spots touting efforts by a Kansas Air National Guard unit deployed this summer to the Arizona-Mexico border. The unit built more than 2,000 feet of fence during two weeks as part of President Bush's effort to put 6,000 National Guard soldiers along the border to combat illegal immigration.
The ad notes that the federal government "seems powerless" to fight illegal immigration as thousands pour over the border.
"That's why Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has called on Washington politicians to set aside their differences and secure our borders, once and for all," the announcer states.
Barnett said Sebelius should be working with the federal agencies to curb immigration instead of taking shots at the administration and Congress. He has called Sebelius' visit with the National Guard unit on the border a "photo op."
Barnett also said he would preserve the integrity of the state's elections - and ensure illegal immigrants don't cast ballots - by requiring all voters to present a valid photo identification at the polls. State law requires only first-time voters to present photo ID.
Sebelius vetoed a bill this spring that would have placed more requirements on voter participation to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act. Sebelius said the ID requirements would have been a barrier for voters and would create mistrust among the electorate.
Barnett was in Washington attending a fundraiser featuring Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. Tickets for the lunch were $1,000 to $2,000 per contributor.