Archive for Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Committee tables immigration bill requiring police to check legal status based on ‘reasonable suspicion’

March 15, 2011

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— The chairman of the Kansas House Judiciary Committee said Tuesday he is not giving up on his immigration bill, despite the panel's refusal to endorse the measure, which would require police to check the legal status of people they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally.

The Judiciary Committee voted Monday to table the bill indefinitely. The measure also would require governments and their contractors to run citizenship checks on new hires and require proof of citizenship for anyone seeking public aid. The provision on checking the status of suspected illegal immigrants mirrors an Arizona law enacted last year.

Critics of the bill said the measure is too broad. A coalition of business groups opposes it, saying it's likely to be burdensome both for companies and local governments.

But committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, said he believes some members of the panel wanted to avoid a debate on a contentious issue.

"My sense is that there may have been some folks who just would prefer to not have the discussion," Kinzer told The Associated Press. "There's still opportunities to potentially bring it up again, and we'll just see how things progress. I certainly haven't given up."

The panel's move doesn't kill the measure, but a majority of the committee must agree to bring it up for it to be considered again. It's also possible for Kinzer and other supporters to try to amend its provisions into another bill before the House.

"Those of us who are supportive of moving forward will just have to look for opportunities to continue the discussion," Kinzer said.

The debate Monday had centered on police running citizenship checks based on "reasonable suspicion" and how the law might affect charities that receive state grants.

State Rep. Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican, has been critical of the measure. She told The Kansas City Star that the bill could still resurface, but that it needs to be more narrowly written.

"I think there's serious constitutional problems with it," Colloton said. "I absolutely think that the police stopping people on reasonable suspicion is an invitation to racial profiling."

Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, tried to amend the bill so it would require police to have "probable cause" to run a background check, but he failed to muster enough support to move the bill along, the newspaper reported.

Rubin also wanted to exclude traffic stops and city ordinance violations as instances when police would have to check immigration status.

"I don't think local law enforcement should even be involved in those situations. I think it's bad public policy," Rubin said.

Rubin also had reservations about provisions requiring businesses to pay damages — in addition to not being able to do business with the state — if they violated the law.

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