In deep red Kansas, the state’s approach to public policy generally hews closely to the Republican Party’s worldview.
Except, that is, when it comes to educating immigrant children. On this front, Kansas has opted for pragmatism over GOP orthodoxy.
Immigrant children who grow up in Kansas and graduate from high school with solid grades can attend college and pay in-state rates, despite not having legal status.
Kansas passed this law in 2004. The Kansas Board of Regents has long supported it. And thousands of immigrant children have benefited from a college education as a result. Many of them have gotten right with the law; some have started businesses; and with college degrees in hand, they have earned higher incomes, paid more taxes and bolstered the state’s economy.
But now, Kansas is taking steps to pull the rug out from under these students who are also known as Dreamers.
Kansas is one of 11 states pressuring President Donald Trump to rescind an executive order that provided these students temporary protection. Then-President Barack Obama signed DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in 2012, in effect extending nationwide the common-sense approach that Kansas has taken.
The majority of these immigrant children had no say in their parents’ decision to come to the U.S. Some arrived in this country as infants. They grew up like other kids, identifying as Americans and speaking fluent English.
DACA isn’t a permanent fix. It merely offers a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation and the chance to work legally for those who qualify through a lengthy application process administered by the Department of Homeland Security.
Now, Kansas and 10 other states have threatened to sue to stop DACA if Trump doesn’t begin phasing out the program by Sept. 5.
Candidate Trump scored easy political points by taking aim at these young people, castigating immigrant children as unwanted interlopers in America. It was red meat for his base.
As president, Trump has inched toward a more reasoned approach.
But some GOP hardliners are suggesting that Trump use the young people as bargaining chips in negotiations with Congress for the funding to build his great, big, beautiful wall at the southern border.
Since the election, these students have largely lived in fear. Trump’s lack of clarity on the issue has been cause for concern. With the stroke of his pen, he could wipe away protections for 800,000 people.
By applying for DACA, these immigrant students voluntarily came out of the shadows, meeting strict character and education tests, allowing themselves to be fingerprinted and photographed and paying fees.
Now there is widespread fear that this very cooperation could lead to their deportation.
Looming lawsuit aside, Trump would be wise to follow Republican-controlled Kansas’ rational approach to this immigration issue.
If not, the loss will be America’s.