A coalition of businesses and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce wants a program allowing undocumented immigrants to help fill state-certified labor shortages in agriculture and other industries.
The program would cover undocumented immigrants whove been here at least five years and havent committed more than one misdemeanor, not counting traffic violations.
Blasted by Kobach and others as amnesty for illegal immigrants, the proposals future is uncertain. Leading senators seem more amenable to the measure, although some lawmakers dont think it will even get out of a House committee.
The reluctance of some lawmakers to embrace the immigration issue comes as theres some political blowback to similar measures that have been enacted in states such as Arizona, Alabama and Georgia.
At a time when lawmakers are trying to make the Kansas economy grow, it doesnt help for them to see headlines predicting that Alabamas immigration law written by Kobach could result in the loss of up to $264 million in state income and sales taxes because of illegal immigrants forced to leave the state.
And there are already signs that lawmakers there may rewrite portions of the law, which is being challenged by the federal government.
The more people are learning about what has happened in Arizona, the more people want to shy from the direction (Kobach) wants to go, House minority leader Davis said.
Reports from Arizona about the recall of the state Senate president who backed that law, also drafted by Kobach, were on the mind of Senate President Steve Morris when he recently discussed immigration bills with reporters.
I think thats the first time in history that a Senate presidents ever been recalled, and it was strictly because of the support for that very punitive bill, Morris said.
Asked about the prospects of the more aggressive immigration proposals backed by Kobach, Morris said, I dont sense support in the Senate for that kind of legislation.
In the House, Rep. Steve Brunk, a Bel Aire Republican whos chairman of the committee evaluating the immigration proposals, wouldnt predict how receptive his committee might be toward the bills.
But the fact that last years single immigration bill was broken into separate pieces of legislation this year meant leadership didnt think the entire bill had a chance of passing, said state Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican.
I think the bill this year that has the greatest likelihood of getting out of committee to the floor of the House is the E-Verify portion, Rubin said.
He noted that the bill requiring law enforcement to check the citizenship of people they detain would probably be the most problematic.
Capt. Tom Hongslo of the Lenexa Police Department warned legislators that the law could create a perception that authorities are targeting people based on skin color rather than their behavior, and that such detentions would take cops off the street for long periods of time.
It is the time and its the manpower, Hongslo told the committee. Its not as simple as some people may think.
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