Immigration
8:31 am
Fri February 3, 2012

Republicans At Odds Over Undocumented Worker Program

A pro-business, pro-immigration bill introduced in the Kansas legislature yesterday pits traditionally Republican business leaders against the hardline anti-immigration Secretary of State and maybe the Republican governor as well.

The Kansas bill creates a state-sanctioned program that would allow undocumented immigrants to work legally in Kansas for two years at a time to address chronic labor shortages at feedlots and dairies.

The coalition of business groups supporting the measure says fees for hiring undocumented workers would make the program cost-neutral while sustaining the agricultural economy.

But Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who's also pushing this session for proof of citizenship on his voter ID law, says Kansas lawmakers won’t authorize illegal immigrants.

“You know I think it’s a fantasy for some people in the meatpacking industry to have these workers given some sort of state level amnesty,” he said, “but it's not gonna happen.”

Eric Stafford with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce says the program is not amnesty, but a pragmatic response to lax federal immigration laws.

“The lack of effort by the federal government has pushed states into the need to come up with their own solution and we feel this is best solution for state of Kansas,” Stafford said.

Supporters say the program is a short-term, carefully monitored program in which immigrants already in the state can help the Kansas agriculture economy.

The Kansas Secretary of Agriculture has reportedly been talking with Department of Homeland Security about how to execute the plan while Gov. Brownback’s spokesman said yesterday the program was “not part of the government agenda.”