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Group files lawsuit against Gov. Brownback

Posted at 5:18 PM, Apr 05, 2016

Kansas City immigration attorney Rekha Sharma-Crawford has dozens of questions regarding Gov. Sam Brownback's executive orders concerning refugee resettlement in Kansas and a total of zero answers from the administration.

"Agencies are not allowed to provide services if they believe a refugee would be a substantial risk to the health and safety of the state of Kansas," Sharma-Crawford said quoting Executive Orders 15-07 and 16-01. "Well, what does that mean? How are you making that determination? Is it based on the way they look? Is it based on what they say? Is it based on a foreign accent? What does it mean?"

The National Immigration Law Center asked for answers to those questions back in January. Brownback's team had three days to respond, but according to Sharma-Crawford, it hasn't provided any meaningful answers. That's why Tuesday, the attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Kansas governor.

"As a public official, you have passed this executive order that on its face appears to do be discriminatory, and if we allow something like this to stand without thought, without consideration, that is of great concern," said Sharma-Crawford.

At the heart of this lawsuit is not the constitutionality of the executive orders but rather the fact that the plaintiffs allege their requests under Kansas Open Record Act have gone unanswered. That's something the chief counsel for Brownback said simply isn't true.

"The lawsuit is meritless," said Brant Laue. "The lawsuit is based on an improper interpretation of the Open Records Act. The lawsuit is premature because we have not even responded entirely to their request yet and the underlying argument that the state of Kansas is engaging in unconstitutional activity is wrong. We are only identifying potential threats to the safety and security of Kansas and protecting Kansas from terrorism."

Laue went on to explain that agencies, like the Kansas Refugee Program, the Refugee Resettlement Program and the Refugee Social Service Program, are barred from assisting refugees it believes could be terrorists from nations already on the federal government's list of nations with state-sponsored terrorism.

The Brownback administration has 21 days to respond to this lawsuit. Then a variety of things can happen. They can still comply with the request by providing documentation that explains how they are implementing that executive order. If that doesn't happen, the lawsuit will go to a judge who will determine what happens next.

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Terra Hall can be reached at terra.hall@kshb.com.

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