House action stalls bill targeting illegal immigrants

? A bill that supporters said would prohibit illegal immigrants from getting state benefits, including in-state tuition, was dealt a major setback Tuesday.

On a 65-56 vote, the House sent House Bill 2367 back to the House Judiciary Committee, which probably will take no action on the legislation, according to the committee chairman.

“The motion was intended to kill the bill,” said Judiciary Chairman Rep. Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson.

The bill’s author, Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said it was unlikely his bill would get new life during the 2007 legislative session.

But, he added, “Nothing is over until the last gavel bangs.”

There are no more Judiciary Committee meetings scheduled as the Legislature moves toward its first adjournment April 3. At this point, most legislative action is before the full House and Senate and in House-Senate conference committees.

Kinzer’s measure would have required people to show proof of citizenship before receiving benefits, such as social services.

It also would have invalidated a 2004 state law that allows some illegal immigrants to pay the same lower tuition rates as legal Kansans at state universities, community colleges and vocational schools. The student must have lived in Kansas at least three years and seek or promise to seek legal status. Last fall, 169 students took advantage of the provision.

Kinzer said the law creates an incentive for immigrants to come to Kansas illegally.

But several lawmakers said the bill’s requirement to show proof of citizenship would be an undue burden on all other students.

“This is a case where the cure is worse than the disease,” said Rep. Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove.

Others feared the requirement to prove citizenship would produce logjams for health care and other services.

Rep. Mark Treaster, D-Pretty Prairie, pointed to a federal requirement to prove citizenship for Medicaid that has resulted in thousands of eligible Kansans waiting for assistance as documents are verified.

“This bill will be punitive to our citizens,” Treaster said.

He made the motion to refer the legislation to the Judiciary Committee for further study. Last week, the House Federal and State Affairs Committee recommended approval of the bill.

Earlier, Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, successfully amended the bill to increase penalties against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Holland has long argued that increased sanctions against employers would stem the flow of illegal immigrants.