Politics & Government

Refugee bill scheduled for House debate

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The Kansas House will debate a bill Thursday that would enable the governor to suspend refugee resettlements in Kansas communities if he determines they lack the capacity.

The bill allows local governments to seek a moratorium on refugee placements in their communities and empowers the governor to direct the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to investigate any crime involving a refugee.

HB 2612 comes as a reaction to last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris, where it is believed one of the attackers posed as a refugee from Syria.

After those attacks, Gov. Sam Brownback issued an order instructing state agencies against assisting the federal government in resettling Syrian refugees. The order was later expanded to apply to all refugees.

Neither the bill nor these executive orders enables the state to keep out refugees. States lack the power to restrict refugees from entering. Opponents of the bill question the legality of restricting refugees from resettling in a specific community.

The bill also requires the governor to appoint a state refugee coordinator and to create a state office for refugees with the Department for Children and Families at a projected cost of more than $700,000.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3