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Serving: KS

Immigrant Policy Provides Interesting Divide

As Secretary of Ag seeks waiver for illegal workers, the Secretary of State backs the country's most radical anit-immigrant laws

I can't help wishing I could be a fly on the wall when the inner circle of Gov. Sam Brownback's advisers get together to talk about immigration. The conversation has to be interesting.

On the one hand we have the new Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, elected in the great Tea Party sweep of 2010 on a campaign to stop voter fraud, which until he ran for office, no one in Kansas had ever thought much about. Stopping voter fraud is the thin veil that covers his real agenda, which is driving immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants, out of the country.

Kobach is the architect of the strict immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama. He has a list of laws he'd like to see passed in Kansas as well, including a proposal to stop the hiring of illegal workers by imposing a one-year shutdown on any business upon its third violation.

On the other hand we have Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman, who is petitioning the Department of Homeland Security to allow Kansas agricultural businesses, including dairies and feedlots, for a waiver that will allow them to employ workers who are in the country illegally, but who have a a solid work record. A coalition of Kansas agribusinesses and other industries supports the waiver.

There is no doubt that Kansas needs the workers. Feedlots, packing plants, dairies, oil and gas drilling companies are all looking for workers and they are not getting applicants. At least two dairies have postponed expansion plans because they can't find enough workers.

It will be interesting to watch the face-off within the Brownback administration. Will the state come down on the side of being pro-business to the point of welcoming illegal workers, or anti-immigrant to the point of letting business suffer?

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