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Things To know about immigration impact in Kansas

November 21, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama’s announcement that he’s extending deportation protections and a chance for work permits to as many as 5 million immigrants now in the country illegally was closely watched in Kansas.

Here are things to know about the potential impact in Kansas:

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THE DREAMERS

In the more than two years since the Obama administration announced a policy curbing deportations of certain immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has accepted 5,928 applications from people in Kansas seeking protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. As of June, the latest available numbers, the agency had approved 87 percent of them, or some 5,165 applications. The remaining applications are pending, denied or under review.

The DACA program announced in 2012 covered people who had been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children and were born after 1981. Obama’s latest action expands the program to people brought to the U.S. as children before Jan. 1, 2010.

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BY THE NUMBERS

While the number of immigrants living in the United States illegally has been relatively stable since 2009, far fewer are choosing to live in Kansas. A recent report by the Pew Research Center found that between 2009 and 2012, 20,000 immigrants without legal status left Kansas. That lowers the state’s total to an estimated 75,000. It is unclear how many in Kansas would be covered under the new policy, but the government has estimated that just under half of the immigrants living illegally in the U.S. would qualify.

About 7 percent of elementary and secondary schoolchildren in Kansas have a parent who is unlawfully in the United States. Immigrants living here illegally comprise 3.5 percent of the Kansas labor force while accounting for 2.6 percent of the state’s population.

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STATE POLICY

Immigrants living in Kansas illegally can’t obtain state driver’s licenses and are denied most social service benefits. But public schools must enroll children who’ve been brought to the U.S. illegally, and the state allows some high school graduates to pay the lower tuition rates at state universities, community colleges and technical colleges reserved for legal Kansas residents.

Immigrants in the U.S. illegally don’t qualify for unemployment benefits, but they do have some workers’ compensation coverage if they’re injured.

State officials still don’t know how the president’s actions will play out in Kansas.

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DRIVER’S LICENSES

Immigrants can obtain a driver’s license if they have an unexpired employment card, an unexpired permanent resident’s card or a valid visa.

Jeannine Koranda, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue, said the state will have to see whether the president’s actions provide such documents to additional immigrants before knowing whether they’d be able to obtain licenses.

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STATE SUIT?

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said driver’s licenses would be among the first places the state sees an affect though, ultimately, “obviously, the president’s amnesty is of such huge magnitude that it will affect Kansas.” He said agencies will face multiple questions because Obama can’t by himself grant immigrants legal status, even as he’s protecting them from deportation.

Kobach also said he’s part of discussions about suing Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“It’s so outrageous and so clearly illegal and unconstitutional,” Kobach said of the president’s action.

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Associated Press writer John Hanna contributed to this report from Topeka.

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