Topeka — House Democratic legislators Wednesday unveiled a proposal that they said would reduce illegal immigration by making employers more accountable.
But unlike a Republican measure unveiled in the Senate, the Democrats' proposal keeps in place the current opportunity for the children of some undocumented immigrants to pay the less expensive in-state tuition for higher education.
There have been many attempts to repeal the so-called in-state tuition law, but they have all failed.
Sen. Peggy Palmer, R-Augusta, has introduced another bill that would attempt to repeal it. She said the 2004 law should be eliminated because it provides a public benefit to people who are living in Kansas illegally.
But House Democrats said the proposal was too divisive and could scuttle measures that have more support.
"I think that's a tired debate," said Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka. "We've been over that time and time again."
Under that 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 currently benefit from the law, according to the Kansas Board of Regents.
Both the House Democrats' and Palmer's proposal would prohibit businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. It would also require businesses to verify employees' status through a federal government database.
At a news conference, House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, said focusing on employers would remove the "magnet" that lures illegal immigrants.
Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said because undocumented workers will often work for less pay, that drives down the pay of many in the work force.
"Illegal immigration erodes the wages of working Kansas families," Holland said. Several of Holland's proposals are included in the House Democrats' plan.
Reps. Barbara Ballard and Paul Davis, both Democrats from Lawrence, also attended the news conference.