CHICAGO – One of Republican Kris Kobach’s favourite slogans in his campaign for governor is that Kansas is the “sanctuary state of the Midwest.”
Kobach has repeated it on Twitter, Facebook, in news interviews and on his campaign website. But the facts about the state’s immigration policies and undocumented immigration population suggest otherwise. Kobach, a national champion of tougher immigration laws and an adviser to President Donald Trump on the issue is challenging Republican Governor Jeff Colyer in the Aug. 7 primary.
A look at the claim:
KOBACH: “Kansas is the sanctuary state of the Midwest.”
THE FACTS: The claim is false for several reasons, including the state’s laws, compliance with federal immigration authorities and the undocumented immigrant population.
Kansas has not passed any laws that limit co-operation with federal immigration authorities, unlike another Midwest state, Illinois.
“Certainly, the state doesn’t have any prohibition or limits on co-operation with the government,” said Rick Su, an immigration and law expert for University at Buffalo. “Even the most broad definition of sanctuary wouldn’t apply to Kansas.”
Kobach’s campaign said he makes the claim because the four states bordering Kansas — Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado — have passed laws discouraging illegal immigration or denying public aid to those living in the country illegally. His campaign also said that the Kansas Legislature has not passed any laws banning sanctuary cities. But the border states Kobach uses to benchmark his claim do not include all of the 12 states of the Midwest region, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.
There is no legal definition for what makes a city, county or state a “sanctuary” for immigrants, and the term is used widely. Last year, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defined “sanctuary” as jurisdictions that refuse to co-operate with federal agencies who are investigating a person’s immigration status.
Typically, that refers to local law enforcement agencies that refuse to hold detainees for federal immigration authorities to investigate.
Kobach’s campaign did not identify any sanctuary cities or counties in Kansas following requests from the The Associated Press.
The Trump administration last year published a list of locations, including five Kansas counties, that it said restricted co-operation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests. The list was heavily criticized for inaccuracies. Two rural counties, Finney and Harvey, told AP they do honour ICE requests. The sheriff of Sedgwick County, which includes the state’s largest city of Wichita, announced in 2017 that the county would co-operate with ICE detainers. Shawnee County, home to state capitol of Topeka, also works with immigration authorities and was sued in May for keeping an inmate in custody on an immigration detainer. The fifth county, Butler, did not return requests from the AP but the county has only declined one of ICE’s 435 detainer requests since 2007, according to federal data kept by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
That same data shows ICE sent 11,615 detainer requests to facilities in Kansas from 2003 to 2017. Of those, Kansas jails have denied only 53 detainers.
Some states have taken measures to ban sanctuary cities but Kansas has not. In April, for example, the Iowa legislature passed a bill that withholds state money from local governments that don’t follow federal immigration laws. In May, Indiana joined a lawsuit against the city of Gary over its sanctuary city policy, saying it violates state law.
Illinois has gone in the opposite direction, passing a law restricting local law enforcement’s ability to work with federal immigration authorities.
Last year, Illinois lawmakers prohibited communication with immigration agents or co-operating with ICE detainers unless federal authorities have a criminal warrant. The law also bans police from searching or detaining someone on suspicion of their immigration status.
“When it comes to detainers and co-operation, it’s the most restrictive,” nationally, Su said of the Illinois law.
Lastly, less than 1 per cent — or 75,000 people — of the estimated 11.1 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally were in Kansas as of 2014, according to the Pew Research Center ‘s latest state-by-state estimates derived from federal survey data. That was down from a peak of 95,000 in 2009. Pew estimates the unauthorized immigrant population continued to decline in 2015 and preliminary estimates show a slight increase in 2016, although there is no state breakdown.
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Eds: A Look at the veracity of claims by political figures.