LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Janeth Vazquez, Liberal
I am extremely disappointed in the state legislature. Earlier this month, they voted to override the Governor’s veto on HB 2350. We are saddened at the fact that legislators passed a bill with language that is so vague and will put our communities in jeopardy across the state. I can assure you my constituents including myself will be highly impacted by this bill.
This new law is going to devastate the economy. This bill is going to decimate the agricultural sector as any person taking someone to work — a good Samaritan, friend or family member — could be subject to level 5 felony charges as the law is written. We already have an existing labor shortage, and this bill will worsen it. Workers will choose to work in other states out of fear of prosecution. The population in Southwest Kansas is projected to decline. We cannot afford to lose more people.
This bill targets all Kansans. This bill criminalizes religious organizations that provide transportation. If a family member contributes toward the rent or other household expenses, this would constitute human smuggling. If a person assists someone who has been exploited in their workplace, they could be prosecuted even if the exploiter is someone else, not the person who wants to help. HB 2350 criminalizes goodwill in the community and does not reflect Kansas values.
This bill was unnecessary as Kansas already has a statute criminalizing human smuggling (K.S.A. 21-5426). The existing law already penalizes the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjecting the person to involuntary servitude or forced labor.” The Department of Homeland Security and the Department Labor already have procedures in place to prevent and penalize human smuggling and labor smuggling. Again, it’s a matter of unnecessary redundancy when there are current laws in Kansas and at the federal level that already address this issue.
Now, I along with many other constituents will be subject to racial profiling. How will law enforcement determine who is undocumented? This puts people of color more at risk of being targeted and discriminated against. We’re supposed to be moving forward, not backward. This bill DOES NOT REFLECT KANSAS VALUES!