Kansas Governor Kelly signs ‘sanctuary city’ bill, dealing harsh blow to immigration activists


The Democratic governor signed the Republican-backed bill acknowledging that veterans, the elderly and people with disabilities will be adversely affected. She called on the Legislature to lobby the state's Congressional delegation to pass comprehensive immigration reform and allow the state to focus on state and local issues

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By Laura Ziegler – Kansas News Service/KCUR

Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly signed a Republican-backed bill on Monday that will thwart hard-fought efforts by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, to issue municipal IDs to residents unable to get legal photo IDs.

The UG’s “Safe and Welcoming Act,” which would have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain municipal IDs, faced backlash from the state GOP.

Passed by the UG in February, the act also blocked local police from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities except in the case of threats to public safety or a warrant signed by a judge.

Kelly, who is up for re-election in November, said in a statement that she signed the statute because it is the responsibility of federal officials, not municipalities, to address our broken immigration system.

“Both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have failed to address immigration issues for decades,” Kelly said in the statement. “We need a national solution and we need it now.”

The law originated with Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who objected to the UG ordinance, saying Wyandotte County would become a “sanctuary jurisdiction for illegal immigrants,” and calling on the Legislature to ban sanctuary cities in the state.

Schmidt, who is expected to be the Republican candidate facing Kelly in November, suggested in a statement that she had little choice but to sign the bill.

“The veto-proof bipartisan support for this bill in the Legislature demonstrated its importance,” he said. “Under this new law, Kansas law enforcement will be able to resume working professionally with federal immigration authorities … and not be silenced by a patchwork of local sanctuary city gag orders.”

The push to pass Safe and Welcoming lasted five years, with vocal protests occurring throughout three different mayoral administrations.

Supporters of the act have said that proof of identity is required for many essential activities, including health care, job applications, enrolling children in school and cashing a check.

Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Tyrone Garner noted that immigrants were only one group the municipal ID assisted. It helped other vulnerable residents, including those experiencing homelessness, formerly incarcerated people, kids aging out of the foster system and many elderly people.

“Residents here in Wyandotte County, no matter where they’re from, no matter who they are need to feel safe and protected by law enforcement when they seek services,” Garner said.

Karla Juarez, Executive Director of the Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation, had been optimistic that the governor would veto the bill. She was dejected when she got the news.

“Oh boy, I don’t know what our next steps will be,” she said.

Juarez said Kelly’s signature on the bill sends a destructive message to communities about engagement.

“Government is for the people,” she said. “The message today is, even if they get involved, the government won’t listen. It sure seemed that way through this process.”

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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