Immigration update: What’s happening in Kansas as Legislature opens?

January 24, 2013 by

Topeka attorney Allie Devine

By Sister Esther Pineda

Immigration is one of the top issues mentioned by President Obama in his inaugural address Monday. And as Congress and the Kansas Legislature begin their new terms, attention returns to the fractured debate over immigration.

On Wednesday, the Sisters of Joseph from Concordia and Wichita held a forum at the CSJ Center in Wichita to discuss “Immigration: What’s Happening in Kansas.”

Sister Therese Bangert, a Sister of Charity from Leavenworth and a longtime lobbyist, and Allie Devine, an attorney from Topeka, were the presenters. Devine began by showing the history of “Immigration: State and National Debate,” from the Industrial Revolution to President Obama.

Sister Therese Bangert

President Ronald Reagan was the most pro-immigration. In 1984, he said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though some time back they may have entered illegally.”

Two years later Reagan signed into law the bipartisan Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which included a provision for amnesty for some immigrants who had entered the U.S. illegally but had lived in the country for a number of years.

One of the constant reminders that was reiterated many times is the fact that coming to the United States without a visa is a civil violation and not a criminal offense; it is a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Devine made reference to the presentation Grover Norquist, a conservative libertarian and founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, gave to the Kansas Legislators earlier this month. It is an interesting and enlightening presentation, currently found on YouTube.

He spoke about the economic wisdom of welcoming immigrants and the potential Kansas has of being a “model” process for immigration reform. He was referring to the Business Immigration Coalition that proposed last year legislation in Kansas, giving undocumented immigrants the right to work legally in Kansas.  This bill will be introduced again next week in the state legislature.

Sister Esther Pineda

Sister Therese spoke of the different anti-immigrant proposals already being introduced in the Kansas legislature.  She encouraged the participants to be attentive to immigration alerts, to legislative hearings on the issue of immigration, other forums and advocacy activities.

She also challenged the participants to call and/or write to their legislators often.

The Forum ended with a strategy session where the participants committed themselves to promote and advocate strongly for comprehensive immigration reform, with very specific ways to do so.

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