Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he would toughen the state’s laws toward illegal immigration if he were elected governor next year.
His appearance at a Wichita Pachyderm Club luncheon on Friday was one of his first speeches since declaring his run for governor in Lenexa on Thursday.
Kobach, known for his tough stance on immigration enforcement, called Kansas “the sanctuary state of the Midwest” for not doing enough to discourage illegal immigration. He said he wants laws to block illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition and other public benefits.
“It’s outrageous and it has to stop,” he said to applause. “We need to be protecting Americans, protecting Kansans, first.”
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A retired teacher in the audience asked whether Kobach supported schools asking non-English speaking families if they were in the country legally. She also pointed to costs of translation services.
“It’s a big, big burden,” Kobach responded. “If we’re spending so much money on this consequence of illegal immigration, that’s a problem.”
Kobach pointed to districts in Finney County and other counties that spend “a huge portion” of their budget on English as a Second Language programs.
“You have the teachers union complaining about how they need more and more money,” he said. “But they don’t get specific and say ‘Well, here’s where a huge portion of the money is getting sucked down and that is into the ESL hole.’
“That is consuming way too much money.”
He also blamed immigrants in the country illegally for depressing wages in the meat-packing industry.
Kobach defended Brownback’s signature policy achievement of income tax cuts and tax exemptions on pass-through business income passed in 2012. He also said he wanted to “roll back” the $1.2 billion tax increase passed by the Legislature this week.
“The legislators wanted to put the kibosh on the tax cuts that we had early in (Gov. Sam) Brownback’s term,” Kobach said. “ ‘The Kansas experiment failed’ is the phrase they used.
“No, it isn’t. You’ve got to give it some time. You’ve got to allow time for these businesses to form and start making money.”
Kobach touted school choice policies, term limits for statewide and legislative officials and a waiting period for legislators before they become lobbyists.
Kobach, who recently ruled out taking a position in President Trump’s administration, said Kansas was the place he wanted to “stay in until I die.”
“It needs to be a place where you can grow a business, a place where you can exercise your Second Amendment rights, a place where the unborn are protected,” Kobach said. “It needs to be a place that has good government.”