Senate leader: Caution on immigration

? While some key House members are calling for sweeping measures to crack down on illegal immigration, Senate President Steve Morris is urging caution.

“We need to be careful,” Morris, R-Hugoton, said. “This is a complicated issue, and we don’t want to do something that will shoot us in the foot.”

Morris said he would oppose measures that seek to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants.

He said he has spoken to companies in his western Kansas district about the difficulty in determining someone’s legal status.

“They bend over backwards to check and double check,” he said.

In the House, state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, has said she will introduce a package of bills on illegal immigration.

One of those would be to revoke the business license and impose fines on businesses found to have knowingly employed an illegal immigrant.

Landwehr noted that Oklahoma has enacted legislation against illegal immigration.

“Kansas must take action,” she said. “If we don’t, not only will we see a tremendous increase in the number of illegal immigrants here, but as Kansas taxpayers, our taxes will go up dramatically to pay for the escalating financial burden on our schools, social services and hospitals.”

Many of Landwehr’s proposals are similar to the Oklahoma law, which took effect last month.

That law provides penalties for knowingly and willingly harboring illegal immigrants, and prohibits public health benefits to illegal immigrants, except in medical emergencies.

The law also requires public employers to run worker identification through a federal verification system, and it cuts off in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students unless they can prove they have applied for citizenship or plan to in one year.

Kansas has an in-state tuition law that benefits illegal immigrant students who have been in Kansas at least three years, graduated from a Kansas high school and promise to seek citizenship. Landwehr said it’s possible she will seek to rescind that law although several attempts to do that in the past few years have failed.