Politics & Government

Kansas attorney general joins Texas push against ‘dreamer’ immigrants

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has joined nine other attorneys general in asking the Trump administration to wind down a program that protects from deportation immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has joined nine other attorneys general in asking the Trump administration to wind down a program that protects from deportation immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. File photo

Kansas has joined nine other states in asking the Trump administration to wind down a program that protects from deportation immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a onetime supporter of in-state college tuition for such immigrant youths, was one of 10 attorneys general to sign a letter last week by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that asks the Department of Homeland Security to phase out the federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The DACA program, instituted by President Obama in 2012, provides relief from deportation, Social Security numbers and work permits for immigrants brought to the United States without proper authorization before they were age 16.

Approximately 12,500 Kansas residents have been approved for DACA status. Supporters of the program generally refer to them as “dreamers” for their pursuit of the American dream.

The Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a statewide nonprofit legal organization, has started a Facebook campaign urging its members and supporters to contact Schmidt and ask him to take his name off the Texas letter.

“I think that letter goes against Kansas values,” said Benet Magnuson, executive director of Kansas Appleseed.

“Kansas law has for over a decade encouraged and promoted DACA students to attend their universities, understanding that’s what’s in the best interests of Kansas” he said. “It starts to create a mixed message if we have our attorney general ... encouraging the Trump administration to push these young people back into the shadows, back out of the economy, back out of the educational system.”

As a state senator. Schmidt voted in 2004 in favor of the law that allows Kansas immigrant students without proper documentation to attend state colleges and universities and pay the lower in-state tuition.

“The federal courts already have enjoined DAPA (and expanded DACA) as unlawfully exceeding the executive branch’s authority, and DACA rests on the same legal grounds as DAPA," Schmidt said in a statement. "Whatever one’s personal policy views are regarding immigration reform, the legal authority to make changes to the country’s immigration law rests with Congress, not the President and the executive branch.”

The letter urges the administration to stop issuing new DACA permits and not to renew existing permits when they expire.

DACA, the letter said “covers over one million otherwise unlawfully present aliens” and “unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization ... and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress.”

An federal appeals court has ruled Obama exceeded presidential authority when he established DACA and the related DAPA program, which sought to shield undocumented parents of citizen children but was never implemented.

A Supreme Court appeal split 4-4, leaving the appellate opinion as guiding law.

The Trump administration revoked DAPA last month but has, for now, continued the DACA protections pending possible changes to the program.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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