06 February 2012

Kansas businesses propose surprising US immigration plan

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A coalition of local businesses in Topeka, Kansas intend to propose a surprising new programme to allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the country in a move which is not only at odds with current US immigration legislation but will almost certainly clash with controversial Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

US immigration

Kansas is one of the most productive states in the agriculture industry in the US yet is suffering from a labour shortage.

The proposed programme will assist some foreign nationals without a valid American visa in remaining in the state, allowing them to hold down jobs within industries which heavily rely on manual labour, particularly agriculture which has a notable labour shortage.

The policy proposal has attracted attention due to its association with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who has drafted some of the toughest US immigration laws in the country in Alabama and Arizona. As Kansas is a majority Republican state, the proposal is likely to divide opinion between those tough on immigration and those with ties to the agriculture industry.

A spokesperson for Immigration Policy Council in Washington DC sympathised with the programme's goals but labelled the proposal 'unprecedented’ and questioned whether the proposal would be permitted by the federal government.

"What [this proposal] says about the [immigration] debate is that states are tired of waiting," said the spokesperson. "There's immigration legislation moving all the time, everywhere."

The proposal's backers claim their programme would help ease unemployment, particularly in western Kansas where unemployment is higher than the state average, by providing workers to commercial dairies and feedlots in west Kansas as well as landscaping and roofing businesses.

State Senate Agriculture Chairman Mark Taddiken said "It's a good starting point, we have a labour shortage in certain industries, agriculture being one of them, and we're turning to solve that shortage problem."

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