ROELAND PARK, Kan. — To avoid a potential lawsuit, leaders in Roeland Park will amend city code to comply with a new state law going into effect later this summer.
In April, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed House Bill 2717. The bill prevents local government agencies from adopting any policy that would restrict the enforcement of federal immigration law.
The bill was first introduced in February at the request of Attorney General Derek Schmidt in reaction to Wyandotte County passing a ‘Safe and Welcoming’ ordinance.
The new bill contradicts provisions in Roeland Park’s previously established policy for city staff and law enforcement not to conduct the work of federal immigration enforcement.
On Tuesday, the Roeland Park City Council voted to amend the city’s Protecting Public Safety and Community Resources Act to comply with the new law.
City Attorney Steve Mauer said without the amendment the city would be in violation of state law when House Bill 2717 goes into effect on July 1.
Mauer said without the policy adjustment, the city would be at risk for excessive legal fees and would likely be defeated in a lawsuit, because state law overrides a city ordinance.
“The House Bill 2717 has provisions that would allow the Attorney General,[or] Johnson County to bring litigation to mandate compliance with House Bill 2717 even if there’s never an event that’s ever happened here in Roeland Park. They could still bring some sort of demonstrative litigation just to punish the citizens of Roeland Park,” Mauer said.
Mayor Mike Kelly said the code will be amended, not because city leaders agree with the new law, but to avoid costing taxpayers money.
“It is not an affirmation or agreement with the legislature or the governor, but out of necessity, frankly, to avoid the unnecessary legal expenses on our residents,” Kelly said.
Despite a unanimous vote of approval, the decision to amend didn’t come without vocal dissatisfaction from council members.
Councilmember Jan Faidley said she feels lawmakers haven’t considered how this will affect the safety of residents in the communities being impacted by the new law.
“No one should have to wonder if a family member might be deported when they encounter a police officer or city staff member, or be afraid to alert our police department when they are victims of or witness to a crime,” Faidley said.
“What’s happening right now is indicative of what’s happening in the country. Legislators and politicians are using people’s lives to score political points for their campaigns and it disgusts me,” Councilmember Michael Poppa said. “It’s happening at the state level. It’s happening at the county level with a certain commissioner who came out against our city and we need it to stop.”
Councilmember Benjamin Dickens said despite pressure from conservative lawmakers, he feels it’s still important to keep an amended ordinance in place.
“Keeping what we can legally at least sends a message to our neighbors that we are not simply going to roll over for these big government conservatives who want to stick their noses in everybody else’s business all the time,” Dickens said.
“All people have value. Don’t ever forget that we are talking about human lives. Roeland Park is a community for all. Talk to your neighbors, let them know you support them,” Councilmember Jennifer Hill said.
“Help them find the people who they can trust and please show that compassion for your neighbors during this time when the laws dictating how we run our city. Don’t allow the only time you think about injustice to be when it’s happening to you.”
The law prohibits city and county government agencies from preventing law enforcement from sharing information with immigration authorities. Law enforcement agencies will be required to inform their officers of their duty to cooperate with state and federal immigration authorities.
House Bill 2717 will also prevent municipal identification cards from being used to satisfy any voter ID requirements set by state law. Municipal ID cards will be required to have “Not valid for state ID” written on the front of the card.
Councilmember Tom Madigan said he feels legislators in Topeka are overstepping the city’s home rule authority.
“If we don’t change the people in Topeka you’re going to see more and more of the city’s ability to rule itself taken away,” Madigan said.
Councilmember Trisha Brauer said the only way to change the influence of state lawmakers is to encourage residents to vote.
“It does also make me incredibly sad that we now have to amend this because [the] state legislature did not take the time to truly understand the intent behind our ordinance,” Brauer said. “Please vote, get your neighbors to vote, get your friends to vote, because that is the only way we are going to be able to make this change permanent.”