Secretary of State Kris Kobach did not consult with the Kansas Highway Patrol before crafting a bill that would require the agency to partner with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on immigration enforcement, an agency spokesman said Thursday.
Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, introduced a pair of conceptual bills on Kobach’s behalf at Thursday’s meeting of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
One of the bills would instruct the Highway Patrol to negotiate and sign an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security “concerning the enforcement of federal immigration laws, detentions and removals, and related investigations,” according to a draft of the legislation provided by Kobach’s office.
Homeland Security is the parent agency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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Whitmer would not answer questions about either bill, saying that he introduced the bills at Kobach’s request. Kobach’s office provided the text of the Highway Patrol bill but did not immediately offer an explanation for its rationale.
“The Kansas Highway Patrol was not consulted concerning any proposed immigration-related legislation,” Lt. Adam Winters, the patrol’s spokesman, said in an e-mail. “If a bill is introduced, the KHP will review the contents, determine the impact on the Patrol and work with the Legislature accordingly.”
Micah Kubic, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned why the secretary of state would draft legislation regarding the duties of the Highway Patrol, an agency that falls outside his jurisdiction.
Kubic said “the idea that the Kansas Highway Patrol should take on routine, front-line enforcement of federal immigration policy is absurd and wrong. It is not the responsibility of the states to take on these responsibilities, and would, in fact, be deeply harmful to public safety for them to do so.”
“Diverting scarce resources away from genuine threats to public safety and into duplicating the job of ICE is wrong-headed. Multiple court decisions have established that it is the federal government’s job to enforce immigration policy, not the job of state or local government.”
Kobach’s other bill would bar Kansas cities and counties from adopting sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants and require their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A version of that bill received hearings last legislative session but never made it to the House floor.
Kobach’s office provided his testimony from last year’s hearing.
“City after city has realized that they can get away with defying federal law and that the federal government will not impose any penalty upon them,” Kobach said in his 2016 testimony on the sanctuary cities bill.
The bill would prohibit municipalities from adopting policies that prevent law enforcement officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or restrict cooperation with ICE.
“The enforcement mechanism is simple. A jurisdiction that violates this law loses state funding. The arbiter of whether or not a jurisdiction is in violation is the attorney general,” Kobach said in his testimony.
The proposed penalty is similar to what was laid out in a recent executive order from President Trump, whom Kobach advised on immigration policy during the campaign and transition.
Trump’s order, issued late last month, halts federal grants to jurisdictions that “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.”
Sedgwick County is in the process of reviewing the potential impact of that order.