Commentary: Brownback should take lead on immigration reform

If Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been waiting for the choir, it’s in perfect pitch now.

Brownback’s been tepid toward politicians gearing up to push Arizona-like immigration proposals through the Legislature. He indicated he might oppose the bills, stating recently to an industry group what should be obvious: Immigration is a federal issue.

But so far, he’s offered no firm commitment to veto the legislation if passed.

Well, Governor, have no fear of backlash.

The Kansas Business Coalition met with about 70 legislators Wednesday in Topeka. They represented the livestock and dairy industries, builders and contractors, agribusiness, the Kansas Economic Progress Council, along with the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, to name just a few.

The coalition pegged the proposals for what they are: unfunded mandates that would cripple already cash-strapped city and county budgets. They’d create minefields of potential lawsuits and stymie businesses with costly, bureaucratic regulations.

The group wasn’t coming from a kumbayah, soft-on-illegal-immigrants stand. Its goal is to educate people about the potential business costs, legal implications and fiscal realities.

“Instead of fixing the problem, they’re trying to build around it,” said Allie Devine, vice president and general counsel of the Kansas Livestock Association. “That’s how bureaucracies are built, instead of efficient government.”

Ultimately, the proposals will cost taxpayers and not affect illegal immigration in the ways that only the U.S. Congress can address. Everything that’s been proposed is simply chasing around that reality.

And it’s a heck of an expensive dog and pony show.

Consider the cost to businesses of verifying the legal status of workers. That takes human resources, plus administrative and legal costs to prove due diligence. It’s a mammoth endeavor if every vendor, every coffee delivery, every contractor submitting a bid must be checked.

Or, consider the concerns of the Unified Government, which would have to pay to jail people who couldn’t prove their legality to police, say, after a traffic stop. It’s not like immigration officials sweep in at the snap of finger to spirit such folks away.

And what of the lawsuit potential when a legal person is invariably jailed? Citizens can also sue under one floated plan, if they think police aren’t doing enough to check people’s status.

Several spokespeople later said these are curiously hypocritical proposals for many new legislators to be backing. They are the opposite of the campaign mantra of small government, less regulation and government getting out of the way of business.

So, Governor, will you please start speaking these truths as well?

The state’s leading industries have your back.

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