The Kansas legislature introduced a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to work in industries that are facing worker shortages. The Kansas Business, Workers, Communities Partnership Act would create a state program that grants employment authorization to local undocumented immigrants who are considered to be a low-priority for deportation. The bill, HB 2603, comes this year as many immigration proposals are expected as state legislatures across the country begin their 2012 sessions.
Supporters of the Kansas bill say it addresses the issue of dealing with the undocumented foreign nationals living in the state, and that it also may avoid crisis in agriculture and other areas. Critics argue that there is no legal way to hire such workers, but the coalition claims they have a creative approach.
The most recognized immigration laws that have been passed in recent years are restrictive laws against those who entered the country illegally. These laws, which were passed in states such as Alabama and Georgia, resulted in detrimental effects to some industries, including agriculture.
Industries backing the legislation include building and construction, landscaping, highway construction, restaurant and hotel, and hospitality businesses. Kansas suffers from a shortage of workers, especially in areas such as western Kansas, said Mike Beam, Senior Vice President of the Kansas Livestock Association.
Undocumented immigrants can qualify under the bill and be paired with a business in need of workers if they have lived in Kansas for at least five years and pass a criminal background check. Applicants must not have committed a felony, or more than one misdemeanor, and must work toward English proficiency.