Kansas Legislature Passes Anti-Sanctuary Bill
FAIR Take | April 2022
The state legislature in Kansas has very recently passed a bill to eliminate dangerous sanctuary policies. The anti-sanctuary legislation passed the Kansas House of Representatives on March 23 and the state Senate on March 30. While the bill is likely to be vetoed by Governor Laura Kelly (D), lawmakers have the votes and should be able to override her veto after they return to Topeka on April 25.
House Bill (HB) 2717 was introduced on February 22, at the request of Kansas Attorney General (AG) Derek Schmidt (R). The impetus behind the bill was Wyandotte County’s adoption of a sanctuary ordinance on February 10. Reacting to the Wyandotte ordinance, AG Schmidt said “it is unwise to inject a patchwork of local immigration politics into law enforcement activities in this manner, particularly at a time when the Biden administration continues to fail in its duty to secure our southern border. It is possible to welcome immigrants without ordering the police to ignore the law.”
Under HB 2717, no local government in Kansas would be allowed to “enact, implement or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule or policy that prohibits or in any way restricts” law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The bill would make any such sanctuary policies null and void.
The House Committee on Federal and State Affairs held a hearing on the bill on March 15 and it was voted out of committee on March 21. Two days later it passed the full House by a vote of 84-38, almost exclusively along party lines.
On March 29, the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs held a hearing on HB 2717. It was voted out of Committee on the same day as the hearing. The next day the Senate voted 29-10 to pass it. Almost all Republicans supported the bill while most Democrats were opposed. Senators Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City) and Jeff Pittman (D-Leavenworth) voted with the majority while Sen. John Doll (R-Garden City) opposed HB 2717. Sen. Gene Suellentrop (R-Wichita) was absent and did not vote.
In floor debate on the bill, Sen. Richard Hildebrand (R-Baxter Springs) particularly made sure to push back on the idea that this was the state taking away “local control,” noting ”when local officials promote violating federal law, ‘There is no place for local control there.’”
After the bill passed the Senate, AG Schmidt commended lawmakers, saying “I appreciate the strong and bipartisan support for this legislation in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Neither our nation’s broken immigration system nor the Biden administration’s ongoing failure to secure our national borders justifies a patchwork of local rules that prevent law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal officials.” He added, “[t]his commonsense legislation should become law.”
While Gov. Kelly has not officially taken a position on HB 2717, she is likely to veto it considering her previous line-item veto of a very narrow E-Verify provision in the state budget in 2021. She also more recently told reporters “I have been a staunch supporter, whenever possible, of allowing local units of government to make decisions that they feel are the best interest of their community.”
However, the bill passed both chambers by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto.