AP – Analysis: Immigration will be dealt with

Analysis: Immigration will be dealt with
Legislature, 2008 candidates will face questions on illegals
By Carl Manning
The Associated Press
Published Monday, September 24, 2007

Almost as certain as the sun rising in the east, Kansas legislators will deal with illegal immigration next year.

People fed up with the federal government’s failure to plug the nation’s porous borders are looking to state legislators to do something. Also, 2008 is an election year, and being tough on illegal immigrants is a sure way to win the hearts of many Kansas voters.

“Coming up on an election year, it’s a great issue to say you will work on or that you have in your back pocket to say you have done something about,” said Bob Beatty, Washburn University political science professor. “During an election year, if you vote against immigration reform, you could be punished at the polls.”

And being punished at the polls is a consideration for all legislators. Not only will all 125 House seats be on the ballot, as they are every two years, but so are the 40 Senate seats, something that happens once every four years.

“The problem at the federal level is there are so many big political considerations for the parties that it is easier for both parties to do nothing,” Beatty said. “Right now in Kansas , there is a great frustration with the federal level.”

The frustration isn’t confined to Kansas .

More than 1,400 bills related to immigration and immigrants were introduced among the 50 states this year, about 2½ times more than in 2006, and 170 became law in 41 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt believes illegal immigration shouldn’t be an issue only in election years.

“It’s an issue that needs to be solved, but that was true last year and it will be true next year. Solving the problem will require consensus-building,” said the Independence Republican. “Sometimes there’s a tendency to be a little more strident on hot button issues in an election year because some folks think it’s good politics.”

Lawmakers will deal with many of the same issues as before, such as restricting public assistance for illegal immigrants, cracking down on employers hiring illegal workers and requiring proof of citizenship to vote.

“There is a general feeling among average Kansans that people not here lawfully shouldn’t be receiving benefits from the state and it’s important our law reflects that,” said Rep. Lance Kinzer , an Olathe Republican who is heavily involved in immigration legislation.

Beatty says another reason for increased irritation is tied to the government’s security mantra after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and what followed.

“You go to airports and get frisked through your underwear. You have security everywhere, except for the millions coming across the border,” Beatty said. “It didn’t make sense to average Americans that people stroll across the border by the millions.”

The only immigration-related bill to become law last year was a watered-down proposal to make English the state’s official language.

“It would not take very many people to change their minds to get different results,” Kinzer said. “Hearing from their constituents could make a difference.”