Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s broadcast of a commercial attacking Gov. Jeff Colyer’s vote as a state representative on a 2008 immigration bill evoked an exchange between the frontrunner campaigns that illustrated the intensity of the Republican primary for governor.
The ad opens with a recitation of Kobach’s contribution to policies intended to stifle illegal immigration. It pivots to a controversial criticism of the vote by Colyer, who was a member of the Kansas House, against a bill Kobach said could have raised the stakes for employers who hired illegal immigrants and would have kept undocumented migrants from receiving government benefits.
On Friday, Colyer campaign spokesman Kendall Marr said Kobach had lobbied legislators in the Capitol to vote against the bill. It is revisionist history for Kobach to criticize Colyer more than a decade later, Marr said.
“We are not surprised that Kobach has resorted to lying about our record,” Marr said. “Gov. Colyer voted ‘no’ because this bill did nothing to curb illegal immigration in Kansas and actually weakened restrictions on illegal aliens receiving public benefits, including giving illegal aliens the right to receive medical care financed by Kansas taxpayers.”
Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert said Kobach drafted the original Senate Bill 329 and testified on behalf of that measure during the 2008 legislative session. She said amendments adopted by the House altered Kobach’s bill and that he didn’t testify on the revised version.
“It is incorrect for Colyer to claim that Secretary Kobach lobbied legislators on the softened version of the bill,” Herbert said. “As governor, Jeff Colyer had the opportunity to advance bills to stop in-state tuition to illegal aliens and to stop sanctuary cities. Both of those bills were in the Legislature, ready to go.”
She said a telephone call by Colyer to Republican leaders of the House and Senate during the 2018 session could have provided traction for the tuition and sanctuary bills.
“He refused to lift a finger. He didn’t make any effort as governor to reduce illegal immigration by getting those bills passed,” Herbert said.
Colyer voted as a legislator to block children of illegal immigrants from paying the lower in-state tuition rate while attending state universities and colleges, Marr said.
In 2008, some conservative legislators were touting a proposal to penalize Kansas employers with suspension or revocation of business licenses if found to have knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. In addition, attempts were made to pass a law requiring Kansas companies to participate in e-Verify, a voluntary federal program to help businesses affirm a potential employee’s citizenship.
In March 2018, Colyer joined 10 other House members who entered into the official record an explanation for their “no” votes on House substitute for Senate Bill 329 and why the altered bill failed to provide meaningful immigration reform. The House Republicans said the bill was drafted in a way guaranteeing that employer sanctions wouldn’t be enforced. The section limiting public benefits was “actually weaker than existing law,” the statement said.
“For the first time, Kansas will be creating a statutory right for unauthorized aliens to receive any and all state-financed medical care, no questions asked. This bill is a facade,” the House members said.
That immigration bill, launched in the Senate and overhauled by the House, didn’t reach then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ desk.
Marr, spokesman for Colyer, said the deliberate misrepresentation of Colyer’s vote on the March 2008 immigration bill showed Kobach’s desperation. A 30-second ad from Kobach making the immigration policy claims could be viewed Friday online.
“Kansans want a governor who will stand strong for conservative values, not one that is willing to lie to them in order to win an election,” Marr said.