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Archive for Thursday, March 10, 2011

Former SRS employee: Policies help illegal immigrants

March 10, 2011, 5:32 p.m. Updated March 10, 2011, 11:43 p.m.

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— A former social services case worker told Kansas legislators Thursday that state policies determining who receives benefits enable fraud and favor illegal immigrants over legal residents as she testified in support of a bill addressing that and other immigration issues.

Lana Reed, who worked for the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services offices in Overland Park from July 2008 to October 2010, said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that agency employees were required to ignore immigrants’ use of fraudulent documents to obtain benefits. She also criticized an SRS policy on how household incomes are calculated for families with illegal immigrants who seek food assistance.

SRS spokesman Bill Miskell told The Associated Press that the agency has procedures for preventing illegal immigrants from getting benefits they shouldn’t receive and ensuring that documents presented to it are authentic.

Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who’s pushing the immigration bill, said the allegations are serious enough that he plans to talk with SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki.

The bill requires applicants for state benefits to provide “affirmative proof” of their citizenship and requires state and local agencies to check their status and cooperate with the federal Department of Homeland Security in verifying applicants’ lawful presence in the U.S.

“There’s so much fraud in my caseload, it’s indescribable,” Reed told the committee.

Reed declined to comment in detail after her testimony, having taken another job after leaving SRS. But she provided a written statement to the committee that said, “The policies in use at the SRS discriminated against Kansas citizens and law-abiding immigrants in favor of illegal aliens.”

Miskell said in a telephone interview that he had not seen Reed’s testimony but said if illegal immigrants seek benefits, “There are policies and protocols for dealing with that.”

“If someone has evidence or information showing that we are providing services to people who are in the country illegally, we’d want to look at that information,” he said.

The committee expects to debate and vote on the bill Monday. It includes provisions similar to an Arizona law enacted last year, requiring law enforcement officers to check the status of people they suspect of being illegal immigrants, if those people have been stopped for another reason. It also requires state agencies and contractors to make a good faith effort to avoid hiring illegal immigrants, using the federal E-Verify program.

Kinzer had help in drafting the bill from Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a law professor on leave who helped write the law enacted in Arizona last year. Kobach said because other states have acted on immigration issues, illegal immigrants are attracted to Kansas.

A coalition of Kansas business groups opposes the legislation, arguing that it will be burdensome both for employers and for state and local agencies. The bill also has drawn criticism from immigrant advocates who believe it will lead to racial profiling, something supporters dispute.

Comments

stonebearer09 2 years, 8 months ago

My wife, a UK citizen, moved here to marry me in 2008. We gave several THOUSANDS of dollars we had saved for that very purpose in order to pay the fees necessary for her to receive Permanent Resident status.

We are NOT financially secure, especially now that we have an infant son to provide for as well. And yet, as I seek employment and we are forced to ask for financial help from SRS, we find that SHE is not eligible as she has not been a resident here for more than 5 years.

As an eye witness, having been in these offices here in Overland Park MANY times, I can tell you that there are countless masses of people who cannot even speak this language - with lines of children following them - that walk away from the premises looking very happy.

Anyone who thinks that legal residents (ones having worked and payed taxes here, in addition to the fees necessary to gain that status) are not prejudiced against, have not seen it first hand. Illegal immigrants are given priority for some reason, and it's sickening.

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LWJC 3 years, 1 month ago

This lady is actually pretty innacurate. SRS is really strict with their verification of citizenship process.

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