Trump executive action could impact several KS counties

Published: Jan. 25, 2017 at 7:07 PM CST
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President Donald Trump follows through with some major promises from his campaign. One of those promises has cities and counties across the country bracing for the loss of federal grant money.

This includes several counties in Kansas.

Sedgwick County does not consider itself a sanctuary county, but that has not stopped it from landing on a list now targeted by the president for not following federal immigration laws.

"We're going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday.

There are six counties in Kansas which are considered sanctuary counties according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The counties on the list have been accused of not holding undocumented people when requested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, "ICE."

In Kansas, Sedgwick, Harvey, Butler, Finney, Johnson and Shawnee counties are considered sanctuary counties.

Immigration Attorney Greg Beuke says the common phrase "sanctuary cities" is a political term, not a legal term with laws surrounding it.

"The sanctuary city issue is an issue of federal funding going to these jurisdictions, or restricting that funding, so it's not even so much increased patrols or enforcements," Beuke says. "It's an effort to get Sedgwick County to honor these requests."

In a 2014 statement, the Sedgwick County Sheriff's said it stopped honoring ICE requests to detain people. The sheriff's office cited case law saying the jail could be held civilly liable for detaining inmates when it is not required to do so.

Now, public information officer Lt. Lin Dehning says the main concern of the sheriff's office is public safety.

“When our deputies contact anyone in the course of their duties they are operating within the realm of the statutes of the State of Kansas," said Dehning. "We do not have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Additionally, if someone is the victim of a crime, we will investigate that crime regardless of the citizenship status of that person.”

The City of Wichita is not included on the list of sanctuary cities, but officials here say, "Officers focus on the behavior of the individual, not their status of documentation."

Finney County officials say they have never classified themselves as a sanctuary county and don't know where that label came from.

The Finney County Sheriff's Office says they've always complied with ICE officials and "will detain an individual as long as they have a warrant or deportation order."

Finney County Administrator Randy Partington says the county has never enacted any resolutions or proclamations labeling them this way. The county hopes the federal government sees that when considering which places they'll pull funding from. In Finney County, the biggest impact is the WIC program.

Dodge City Police Chief Drew Francis says his city does not qualify as a sanctuary city and the president's order will not change the way his department will serve the community.

"We are still here to serve and protect everyone, regardless of their immigration status," Drew said in a Facebook post.

"This new order by President Trump is targeting people who have already committed crimes. If you don’t commit any criminal acts, other than just being undocumented, you have nothing to worry about from the Dodge City Police Department," he continued.

Drew said anyone arrested by his officers will be booked into the Ford County jail which he says "fully complies with any ICE hold."

The Harvey County Sheriff's Office posted a similar statement on its Facebook page.

"We have received some calls regarding a post circulating Facebook stating that Harvey County is a 'sanctuary county'," reads part the post. "We are not sure where the list came from, or who created, but that statement could not be further from the truth."

Trump said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security that his executive actions on immigration show that "beginning today," the U.S. will get back "control of its border."

Trump also says his administration will be working in partnership in Mexico to improve safety and economic opportunity for both countries and will have "close coordination" with Mexico to address drug smuggling.

Trump says, "We're going to save lives on both sides of the border."

The new president spoke shortly after signing executive orders to strengthen border security and crack down on immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The orders will set in motion the construction of his proposed border wall, a key promise from his 2016 campaign.

Trump says he expects construction of the border wall to begin within months. U.S. taxpayers are expected to pay for the upfront costs, though Trump continues to insist that Mexico will somehow reimburse the United States.

Trump tells ABC News, "There will be a payment," but it may be in a "complicated form.

Along with the immigration concerns, Trump calls for a major investigation into voter fraud, following through with claims that there were millions of illegal votes during the general election in November.

Voter fraud has been a topic of much debate in Kansas where Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been vocal about his efforts to stop voter fraud in the state. But some who spoke with Eyewitness News Wednesday say voter fraud is not the biggest problem with our elections.

"I would actually like to see some serious research done to determine, is this an actual problem, how big of an impact is it?" Wichita statistician Beth Clarkson says. "But I don't see anybody doing that research."

Clarkson has spent the last four years doing her own research into what she feels is a much bigger issue.

"I have primarily been looking into election fraud, whether or not the machines that tabulate our votes are counting them accurately, and the data that I'm looking at is pretty clearly showing that we have serious problems that we need to address," Clarkson says.

Clarkson says she has proof election fraud is occurring in Kansas, but there is no proof of voter fraud.

Sharon Ailslieger with the League of Women Voters says the biggest concern for her isn't voter fraud, but barriers put in put in place that prevent qualified voters from casting their ballots.

"It's not happening just in Kansas," she says. "We are concerned leagues in other states and at the national level that there are citizens who should be allowed to vote who are either not allowed to vote, or their vote doesn't count."

President Trump has previously claimed that 3 million to 5 million illegal votes were what caused him to lose the popular vote in the general election. Spicer says it's not just about the 2016 election, but about the integrity of the entire voting system.

Eyewitness News reached out to Kobach Wednesday, but was unable to reach him for comment.