The Kansas Highway Patrol came into being in 1937, with the mission of dealing statewide with traffic and highway laws. Two years later, at the insistence of then Gov. Payne Ratner, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation won legislative approval, to give the state a crime-fighting organization that wasn’t impeded by city, county or state boundaries.
Both have done admirably well and today are key components of public safety in Kansas.
Revenue cuts brought about by the state’s budget woes haven’t made either agency’s commitments to the state any easier.
Now, Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants to burden KHP troopers — and also make a little political hay for himself.
Last week Kobach, who seems bored by taking care of business he was elected to do, asked legislators to pass bills designed to fight illegal immigration by barring sanctuary cities and allowing the KHP to enforce immigration laws.
The second measure, involving troopers, is more egregious. It would require the Kansas Highway Patrol to join with the Department of Homeland Security to enforce “federal immigration laws, detentions and removals, and related investigations.”
Two things stand out.
If anyone were to make such proposals it should be Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whose responsibility is state law enforcement. The secretary of state is expected to oversee elections at all levels, as well as campaigns and their finances, and various other duties of a meaningful nature to the state.
Also to the point, the Kansas Highway Patrol is strapped by spending cuts to do what is required of its troopers: Patrol highways and make them as safe as possible for citizens; watch over commercial use, including violation of drug and other laws, of thoroughfares; provide officers to protect the governor and the Capitol. KHP officers also may be called on to help local officers in special circumstances.
Putting them under the thumb of a federal agency would be a net loss for Kansas.
Kobach is well-known for his preoccupation with illegal immigration, including authoring tough immigration laws for Arizona and Alabama. He also instituted more involved and complicated registration and voting requirements for Kansans that are superfluous and conflict with federal laws.
Micah Kubic, head of the Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Wichita Eagle the bills were “absurd and wrong. Diverting scarce resources from genuine threats to public safety and into duplicating the job of (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is wrong-headed.”
He also noted, “Multiple court decisions have established that it is the federal government’s job to enforce immigration policy, not state and local government.”
WITH Lynn Jenkins, who represents the Kansas 2nd District in the U.S. House, having announced she is leaving politics, Kobach and Schmidt no doubt are seriously considering the governor’s seat, or perhaps hers.
Each has designs on more than their current offices, and 2018 will be an opportune time, with each in the middle of four-year terms.
Actually, three positions are tantalizing for ambitious Kansas politicians — the governor’s office, Jenkins’ House seat and the U.S. House seat of Mike Pompeo, who now is director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo’s short-term replacement in the 4th District will be decided in an April 11 election.
The chances of either of Kobach’s immigration proposals flying don’t seem particularly good with more legislative moderation, at least in the House, but they will give him another opportunity for a pulpit from which to rail about illegals and all the alleged harm they do to Kansas.
Meanwhile, Schmidt may be simmering a bit — though he’s gentleman enough to not make a fuss — over Kobach stepping into his sphere of influence.
— Bob Johnson