Topeka Topeka — Law enforcement officials are skeptical of two Kansas bills backed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach that would pull officers into federal immigration law enforcement.
The bills would train Kansas Highway Patrol officers trained to help enforce federal immigration law and crack down on “sanctuary cities.” The state Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee had a hearing on them Wednesday.
Kobach has championed tough voting and immigration bills and has advised President Donald Trump on his immigration crackdown.
The highway patrol testified that it had not been consulted when the bill was drafted and that the agency is understaffed. It warned that a redirection of resources would likely hinder its ability to perform public safety duties.
The highway patrol bill would allow officers to take people into custody who are here illegally rather than wait for immigration officers, Kobach said in written testimony.
Samantha Poetter, chairwoman of Kansans for Conservative Values and a former Kobach aide, said it could help stop human and drug trafficking by allowing highway patrol officers to take smugglers to jail more quickly.
But Adam Winters, a Kansas Highway Patrol lieutenant, said in an interview that patrol officers can already take people in if they have probable cause to believe someone committed a crime. They can’t take people into custody solely because of illegal status.
No law enforcement agencies testified in support of the bill, and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, said Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay opposed both bills and thought the federal government should handle immigration enforcement.
Several Democratic representatives said they opposed the proposals because it would encourage racial profiling by officers and discourage people in the country illegally from reporting crimes when they’re witnesses or victims.
The other bill would withdraw state funding from cities and counties — which the bill called “sanctuary cities” — that don’t comply with immigration authorities’ requests to detain immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Kobach was out of town at a meeting of secretaries of state, his office said. Committee Chairman Sen. Jacob LaTurner, a Pittsburg Republican, said he set the hearing for the bill without consulting with Kobach’s office.