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Sharice Davids agrees to co-sponsor green card bill championed by Kevin Yoder

Kansas Dem. Sharice Davids plays up bipartisanship: ‘I think it starts with me reaching out’

Congresswoman-elect Sharice Davids discusses her outreach to marginalized groups of voters, her plans to work with Kansas Republicans as the state's lone Democrat in Congress and her goals for a bipartisan health care plan.
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Congresswoman-elect Sharice Davids discusses her outreach to marginalized groups of voters, her plans to work with Kansas Republicans as the state's lone Democrat in Congress and her goals for a bipartisan health care plan.

Rep. Sharice Davids has signed on as co-sponsor for a bill that was championed by the man she defeated in November.

The Kansas Democrat is one of 112 lawmakers who have agreed to co-sponsor legislation that would remove the per-country limit on employment-based green cards. The measure is intended to help highly skilled workers from India who face a decades-long wait for green cards under the current system.

Former Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, was lead sponsor for two years before his 2018 loss to Davids in a suburban Kansas City district.

Yoder successfully attached the legislation to the House bill that would have funded President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. But when the standoff between Trump and Congressional Democrats triggered the federal government shutdown in December, its prospects evaporated.

The bill was reintroduced Thursday— separate from the ongoing border wall negotiations—by Reps Zoe Lofgren, D-California, and Ken Buck, R-Colorado. Two other Kansans have signed on as co-sponsors: Reps. Ron Estes and Roger Marshall.

“I’ve said this before that there were a number of things that Yoder was supporting that were good initiatives and good bills and this was one of them,” Davids said about her decision to join the legislation.

“I had a bunch of conversations with folks both from the district [and outside] and this seemed to make sense to me. I still want to see comprehensive immigration reform… But for right now, this is a really good way to deal with the backlog.”

Rep. Kevin Yoder of Overland Park addresses a reception hosted by Immigration Voice in Washington, D.C. after being introduced by Sunayana Dumala. Yoder promised that a policy change to the green card system will happen this year.

The public face of the legislation, Sunayana Dumala, lives in Davids’ district. Dumala’s husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was murdered in an Olathe hate-crime attack in 2017 and her immigration status was thrown into jeopardy.

She remains in the country on a work visa, and may never become a citizen unless the green card backlog is resolved. Dumala accompanied Yoder to the 2018 State of the Union address and was a fixture in campaign ads and appearances.

Davids’ chief of staff said that her district office has reached out to Dumala.

Aman Kapoor, the president of Immigration Voice, the main group advocating for the bill, said in an email that the legislation “will finally remove the last vestiges of discrimination from our high-skilled immigration system, which greatly harmed poor victims like Sunayana Dumala.”

One year after Srinivasan Kuchibhotla was shot and killed inside Austin’s Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas, his widow Sunayana Dumala led a peace walk from the Garmin headquarters to the bar where Kuchibhotla was killed. The walk took place on Friday

Despite the bill’s wide bipartisan support, it faces opposition from the American Hospital Association, which says it could adversely affect the ability of nurses from the Philippines to obtain green cards.

Other immigrant groups, such as Korean Americans in Action, have also warned that the bill could increase green card backlogs for their members.

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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