Written by Rep. Bob Brookens Tuesday, 15 March 2011 14:46
The Judiciary Committee held hearings on the “immigration” bill that is based on the Arizona law about “illegal aliens.”
I learned there are people in Kansas who entered the country illegally, people who came legally and work legally, and some who came legally whose visa has expired and have yet to hear from the federal government about a visa extension—called “out of status,” but not “illegal.”
We also heard of “undocumented workers.” The bill has three components: E-verify, public benefits and enforcement.
• E-verify. The federal E-verify system was described in the hearing by one man as easy to follow and easy to use. Others, however, spoke of false reports, difficulty fixing errors (Have you ever quickly resolved a Social Security issue or an IRS discrepancy?) and the actual cost of using the system.
We also learned the user of E-verify (state, county, business), must agree to submit to the U.S. government, when requested, all information it has collected. The U.S. has the right to review all your work. That takes money, too.
This bill requires all levels of government—state, county, cities, fire districts, health departments, individual municipal officials and all others—to use E-verify in hiring and all contracts and grants.
This means Kansas, Strong City, the health department, county clerk, as well as anyone who contracts with or receives money from any government at any level must use the system and be prepared for an audit and to comply. This includes not only building projects, but about any business transaction.
We would mandate all local governments E-Verify and all businesses with which we contract E-Verify. If anyone doesn’t document actions sufficiently, read below about enforcement.
• Public benefits. The second part denies public benefits to anyone who cannot prove their legal right to be here. As written, this applies to state and all local government benefits. It requires scrutiny (Produce proof of who you are or E-Verify?) for Medicaid, public assistance, shots at the health department, etc.
The state will not likely fund any expenses of a county, city or other governmental unit.
• Enforcement. The bill encourages officers of all agencies to stop people for reasonable suspicion and require “proof” of the right to be in Kansas. It also provides that each level of government report those who they believe have no documentation.
The cost to detain or jail will not be paid by the state, but by the local government, typically the county or city. The law commands local officers—meaning the sheriff or police, as well as health nurses, the county’s elected officials and others—enforce this law fully.
If someone doesn’t follow the full force of this law, they could face prosecution for a felony. Commissioners and mayors, too. In some places, it could pit neighbor against neighbor. I fear we are becoming a society where we—or anyone who looks different from thee and me—must carry “papers” to avoid arrest.
And I’m not ready to subject the county health nurse to prosecution for giving a shot to someone whom she failed to document as “legal.” She’s a nurse.
• Cost. What is the cost? We don’t know. We heard testimony from a man from Arizona who states Arizona’s hotel-convention business alone lost about $1 billion. That doesn’t touch business costs of E-Verify, nor does that touch jail beds, prison beds, prosecutor time, defense attorney time, foster care expense for children whose parents are jailed...and the list of expenses goes on.
Kentucky analyzed the cost of their proposed similar bill. When considering savings and costs, Kentucky had a projected expense of about $40 million. Using Kentucky’s factors and applying them to Kansas, the cost to Kansas would exceed $60 million.
We don’t know if the numbers are accurate, but we are in a recession, or so I’m told. Should we be doing this for even half the cost? Should we prioritize our money on this?
We’ve had virtually no time to digest this bill—the hearing was Thursday—and we are to work and consider it today (Monday). There are parts of the bill I could support, but not as it reads. I am not ready to establish a Kansas gestapo and I am not ready to spend multi-millions during a recession for this purpose.
We all cheered Arizona’s nerve in tackling the issue, but we don’t need to follow Arizona off the cliff. We’re not lemmings.
Please contact me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call 620-382-2133 or my Topeka number during the session (through about May 10): 785-296-7636.