Earlier this month the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, which includes Kansas City, Kansas, approved the “Safe and Welcoming” ordinance — a move critics contend effectively created a “sanctuary city.”
The ordinance prevents the KCK police department from responding to calls for “assistance from ICE unless the call is necessary to protect public safety.” It also makes it illegal for the unified government to collect immigration data unless required by state or federal law, and it grants municipal ID cards to illegal immigrants.
In response, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt stated that legislation would be needed.
“it is not entirely clear that current state law prohibits what is being done in Kansas City,” Schmidt said. “Even after years of discussion and debate, the State of Kansas has not adopted a state statute specifically prohibiting local ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions for illegal immigration. I believe it is now necessary and appropriate to do so, and I call upon the Legislature to enact a clear, strong, and effective state law on this subject this year.”
On Feb. 23, the Kansas House of Representatives introduced a bill that would prohibit such “sanctuary jurisdictions.”
The proposed legislation, House Bill 2717, focuses on preventing local political interference with law enforcement cooperation in immigration enforcement and is modeled on a similar law enacted in Indiana in 2011. The legislation would:
- Prohibit municipalities from preventing law enforcement agencies from sharing information or cooperating with immigration authorities.
- Prohibit municipalities from limiting or restricting the enforcement of federal immigration law within their jurisdiction.
- Require law enforcement agencies to notify their officers that they have a duty to cooperate with state and federal agencies and officials in the enforcement of immigration law.
The proposed legislation also addresses the authority of cities or counties to issue their own municipal identification cards by requiring that any municipal identification cards may not be used to satisfy any identification requirement established by state law and must bear the words “Not valid for state ID.” It also would amend existing state law to make fraudulent use of a municipal identification card a crime just as fraudulent use of a state identification card currently is a crime.
Wyandotte County Mayor Tyrone Garner stressed that the local ordinance did not supersede federal law.
“Federal agencies may still enforce federal law, including immigration law, in Wyandotte County, Garner said in an emailed statement. “Even without the Act, the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department does not view itself as an enforcer of federal immigration law. Its General Order No. 40.18 on Undocumented Persons/ Foreign Nationals was adopted in 2017 and states ‘Officers of this Department have no lawful authority to enforce immigration laws.’ The involvement of this department is limited to situations independent of immigration enforcement, which is the responsibility of DHS.”
Garner also stressed that the purpose of the “act” was to make sure all residents of the county could seek basic services.
“The Safe and Welcoming ordinance is the right thing not just for Wyandotte County — but it’s the right thing to do for people’s lives,” he said. “No one should be fearful of seeking basic services from local government or protections of our public safety professionals.”
Schmidt, however, said it is a matter of basic law and order.
“Citizens throughout our state deserve to know that wherever they may travel in Kansas, law enforcement officials are cooperating with federal and state agencies to fairly enforce applicable law and are not obliged to turn a blind eye to some unlawful conduct merely because of local politics,” Schmidt said in a release. “Particularly in light of the current federal administration’s ongoing failure to secure our nation’s southwest border, this is an important law-and-order issue throughout our state, not merely a matter for local preference.”