Kansas Legislator Attempts Alabama HB 56 Redux with Bill to Track Undocumented Students

Kansas state Rep. Allan Rothlisberg wants to know how much money his state is spending to educate undocumented students.

By Julianne Hing Jan 30, 2014

Kansas state Rep. Allan Rothlisberg filed a bill Tuesday proposing that Kansas public schools track the immigration statuses of their public schoolchildren, and then send that information along to the state. 

HB 2521 lays out 15 different kinds of proof of status schoolchildren may bring in–from naturalization documents to a passport to a Bureau of Indian Affairs card number–to prove that they’ve got legal status to be in the state. Schools would be required to track and send to the state the number of students who enrolled but failed to prove their status, and the state would annually publish a report showing how much state money was being spent to educate those kids.

"I would prefer we spend tax dollars on citizens and not on illegal aliens," Rothlisberg told the Lawrence Journal-World. The bill acknowledges that the state cannot prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in Kansas public schools. A 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyer v. Doe, firmly laid out children in the U.S. have a right to public education, regardless of their status. 

The bill was "another attempt at intimidation and harassment," Sunflower Community Action Group’s Sulma Arias told the Lawrence Journal-World.

Rothlisberg, a Republican from Grandview Plaza, is a noted anti-immigration lawmaker who last year supported an effort to repeal his state’s in-state tuition law for undocumented students. At the repeal hearing last year Rothlisberg complained about drug cartel members which he say fill U.S. prisons, and the inconvenience of listening to a Spanish language option on automated phone calls.

Rothlisberg’s antics this year call to mind HB 56 from Alabama, an embattled 2011 law which went several steps further than the Arizona SB 1070 law which inspired it to terrorize the state’s immigrant community. Among its many anti-immigrant provisions, HB 56 also required schools to track their undocumented student populations. Less than two weeks after HB 56 went into effect a judge enjoined that very provision, but by then many panic-stricken Alabama immigrant families were reportedly fleeing the state and taking their children with them.

In that respect, HB 56 was successful at the outset. But several years on from that initial hysteria, the law seems to have been unable to break the state’s immigrant community. Something Rothlisberg might want to keep in mind. 

(h/t Huffington Post)