Topeka The Kansas Republican Party on Friday opened a wide-ranging attack on illegal immigration with a proposed bill that includes repeal of in-state tuition for some undocumented students.
"National security begins at home, and this legislation will protect Kansas against the foreign invasion that undermines our national security and drains the resources of legal aliens and U.S. citizens," said state Sen. Peggy Palmer, R-Augusta.
Palmer said she will introduce a bill in the legislative session, which starts Jan. 14, that she said would prohibit illegal immigrants from getting jobs and public benefits.
The bill was drafted with assistance from Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach, who is also a law professor and attorney involved in lawsuits across the country in trying to restrict illegal immigration. News about Palmer's legislation was sent out by the Kansas GOP.
Kobach said the bill will include repeal of a 2004 Kansas law that allows the children of some illegal immigrants to pay the same lower tuition rates as legal Kansans at state universities, community colleges and vocational schools. Under the law, the student must have lived in Kansas at least three years, graduated from a Kansas high school, and seek or promise to seek legal status.
In Kansas, 243 students are receiving the in-state tuition under the law, according to the Kansas Board of Regents. Most of those - 193 - are attending community colleges; 46 are at state universities, including 11 at Kansas University; three are at technical schools, and one is at a technical college.
Jonathan Blazer, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, said he hoped Kansas would keep in place the in-state tuition law, which has been defended by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, in previous attempts to repeal it.
"Gov. Sebelius has successfully made the case that Kansas should invest in its young people," Blazer said.
The law was approved with votes from Democrats and Republicans in the Kansas Legislature. But Kobach said many Republicans who supported the bill in 2004 "didn't realize what they were voting for."
And times have changed, Kobach said. The Legislature should repeal the law and enact new restrictions on illegal immigrants, in part, because neighboring states are cracking down on illegal immigration, he said.
"Kansas is in danger of becoming a sanctuary state in the Midwest," he said.
But Blazer said the Palmer-Kobach bill wouldn't work, that it was based on myths about undocumented workers, and seemed to be aimed more at scoring political points than fixing the problem.
"These things are a laundry list of bad ideas," Blazer said.
For instance, Blazer said, Palmer cites figures by the Federation for American Immigration Reform to estimate that illegal immigrants use services that add up to a $235 million tax burden on Kansans.
But Blazer said these kinds of costs don't take into account that undocumented workers pay taxes and are ineligible to receive public services, such as Medicaid. The children of illegal immigrants are allowed to attend public schools because of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. Kobach said nothing in the bill would challenge that situation.
One of the measures in the proposed bill would require employers to register and use the federal government's E-Verify system to identify whether potential employees are in the country legally.
But Blazer said the E-Verify system has been plagued by problems caused by flaws in the database. Kobach contended the system is accurate.
Blazer said Kansas in the past has shown a more reasonable approach to immigration, and he hoped that would continue.
He said his organization supports federal legislation that would create a way for undocumented workers who have been in the United States for years to apply for citizenship.