TOPEKA, KS - Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman is seeking a federal waiver that would allow companies to hire illegal immigrants. Facing pressure from large dairies and feedlots desperate for workers, Rodman has met several times with officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about launching a pilot program that would place employers and illegal immigrants in a special state-organized network.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the goal is to create a legal, straightforward manner of organizing existing immigrant labor.
So far, Homeland Security has neither approved nor closed the door on the idea. "I need a waiver,'' Rodman said. "It would be good for Kansas agriculture.''
Now, a coalition of business interests is preparing to push the idea in Topeka. Details are expected to emerge about a bill establishing the outline of a state-managed worker program. Operating in cooperation with the federal government, it would link sponsor
companies with illegal immigrants who have been in Kansas a minimum of five years and have no criminal background. One potential candidate would be a person who entered Kansas on a visa that expired years ago.
The employees and employers would pay fees that would support the program, ensuring the state incurred no oversight cost.
Mike Beam, senior vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said the objective was to secure a reliable, regulated labor pool to the state's businesses. Despite the recession, there are counties in rural Kansas with unemployment rates half the state average.
"This will be very limited,'' Beam said. "It would be an agreement between the state of Kansas and Homeland Security.''
Other groups backing the idea include the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and local chamber affiliates, the Kansas Farm
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