Businesses Unite Over Proposed Kansas Illegal Immigration Laws

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- A proposal to crack down on illegal workers in the state of Kansas is dividing the state's businesses.

"We see it as a federal issue.  Immigration policy is something so that all states are on the same level playing field," says Kevin Fern, a member of the Travel Industry Association of Kansas, one of 27 businesses to join the Kansas Business Coalition fighting the proposals.

The e-verify bill in the Kansas House would require Kansas businesses to enroll in the internet-based e-verify program to determine the eligibility of its employees to work in the United States.  Secretary of state Kris Kobach says the 27 business in the coalition aren't representative of the majority of the state's businesses.

"I actually dont think there is a big divide.  Most employers want to follow the law.  Most employers would be perfectly happy to use the e-verify system which is already optional," says Kobach.

Fern disagrees saying, "Certainly the potential for e-verify would have a very negative impact on any type of business, but especially on hotel and restaurants and hospitality related businesses."

Fern says the state is already experiencing labor shortages and passing such a bill would further hurt the Kansas economy.

"If you look at some of the other states that passed these legislations, they are having a huge worker shortage in a whole bunch of areas including agriculture and seeing loss in agriculture products and crops because of legislation like this," Fern says.

Koach says there is no labor shortage.  "When they claim that they can't find Americans to take those jobs, they always leave out, at what price?  They don't want to pay a reasonable wage and they like the fact that they can exploit illegal labor."

Adding that businesses who say U.S. workers won't take those jobs are ignoring the facts.

"U.S. citizens are in those jobs, right next to the illegal aliens and they are getting paid a lower wage because they are competing with the illegal aliens."

The Kansas Business Coalition says the State of Arizona lost more than $140
million in the travel and tourism industry after a tough immigration law was passed.  They say they do not want to see the same thing happen in Kansas.

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