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New Immigration Legislation in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma

Scott Gurian / KGOU

By Sylvia Maria Gross and Scott Gurian, KGOU

Kansas City, MO – Kansas lawmakers held hearings this week on a set of bills dealing with immigration. Many of the bills before the House's Federal and State Affairs Committee strengthen penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants. The committee is also looking at measures that deny public benefits to illegal immigrants, ban them from renting homes and authorize state police to review people's immigration status. Committee members plan to roll these measures into one bill in the next few weeks.

Joe Hudson is political director of the Carpenter's District Council in Kansas City. He was among those testifying in Topeka this week in support of greater penalties on employers who hire workers illegally. Hudson and assistant director Dave Wilson say that, in their industry, contractors avoid existing laws prohibiting them from hiring illegal immigrants, by classifying workers as subcontractors - and having them do the hiring.

Lawmakers in both Missouri and Kansas are looking at the effects of a new law in neighboring Oklahoma, which went into effect last November. That law makes it a felony for anyone to transport, conceal or house undocumented immigrants, and people on both sides of the issue have called it one of the strictest measures of its type in the country. The law is still fairly new, so there aren't yet many hard statistics about its effects. But anecdotal evidence suggests it has already had an enormous impact. KGOU News Director Scott Gurian, visited a Latino neighborhood in Oklahoma City soon after the law went into effect. See a slideshow of the places he visited at Weekend America.

Next weekend in Kansas City, the Common Table Coalition, of Latino, civil rights and church groups, holds a summit on immigration and racism at the Cristo Rey School.

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