Former Kansas Secretary of State and current U.S. Senate candidate Kris Kobach held a press conference in Roeland Park Tuesday denouncing what he categorized as a “sanctuary city” policy a day after the city council discussed what considerations should be taken into account when determining whether to use city law enforcement resources to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other federal agencies.
Last month, the Roeland Park council heard a presentation from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on so-called “safe and welcoming” ordinances that make it city policy not to allocate city resources to immigration enforcement actions in many cases. The goal of the policies, according to the ACLU, is to make members of a community who could fear deportation or detention because of immigration status feel comfortable working with police officers or sharing information as part of city-level criminal investigations.
On Monday, the Roeland Park governing body discussed the idea of such a city-level ordinance at a workshop, though no such ordinance has been drafted for formal consideration. The council also heard a presentation from Police Chief John Morris on the department’s policy regarding use of resources. Morris referenced a written document that laid out what had been the department’s standing policy on immigration issues, namely that Roeland Park police will not stop or question anyone to determine their immigration status, and that they will not detain or arrest anyone based solely on their immigration status.
Kobach took issue with Morris having put the existing policy in writing, saying that it amounted to a directive that violated federal law. He said that, if elected to the Senate, he would work on legislation that prevented “sanctuary” cities from receiving federal funding.
“It’s a sad day for Kansas when one of its cities says we are putting the interests of illegal aliens over the safety of U.S. citizens in our city,” Kobach said.
Kobach was joined at the event by Dennis Bixby, a Leavenworth County official whose daughter Amanda was killed in a car accident in 2007. The driver charged with causing the accident, Ricardo DeLeon Flores, was escorted out of a court appearance by ICE officials in the months following the crash. Bixby said he supported Kobach’s efforts to increase enforcement of immigration status.
Following Kobach’s press conference, Roeland Park City Administrator Keith Moody issued a release detailing the city’s policy related to police resources and immigration enforcement, noting again that the policy discussed by Morris on Monday night was not new:
As previously stated, at our October 7, 2019 city council meeting, we informed our residents and guests about how the Roeland Park Police Department interacts with other law enforcement agencies. While there has been misrepresentation and political rhetoric about this, these policies are not new. The Roeland Park Police Department will continue to focus on keeping our residents and community safe. As always, the Roeland Park Police Department shall cooperate with ICE when required to do so by statute, ordinance, federal law, court order, or upon a valid criminal warrant or specific threat to public safety.
While we support the efforts of all law enforcement agencies that serve and protect individuals from harm due to criminal activity, the Roeland Park Police Department is a local municipal police agency that enforces local ordinances, traffic regulations and criminal laws. It does not enforce federal immigration laws. Therefore, the Roeland Park Police Department does not stop, question or interrogate any individual solely to determine nationality or citizenship status. No person is arrested or incarcerated in Roeland Park based solely on immigration status.
If the Roeland Park Police Department is contacted by ICE or any other Federal law enforcement officer regarding the criminal activity of someone who may or may not be legally present in the United States, but no official criminal warrant has been issued, the Chief of Police or a supervisor will consider, among other things, the alleged criminal conduct, the amount of evidence the immigration official has against such person, the impact on public safety, the impact to the individual or other affected parties and the risk that communication will impact future cooperation with police by immigrant communities. We want people to understand that while immigration enforcement remains a difficult topic, and one that cannot be solved at the municipal level, Roeland Park will focus its time and resources on doing what it does best: keeping our residents, our streets, our parks, and our homes safe. We are lucky our police officers have chosen to serve us in that capacity.
Roeland Park and its Governing Body stand firmly behind our police force. Our Police Department consistently receives high praise from our citizens and has worked hard to ensure that crime in Roeland Park is at a ten‐year low. We are proud and grateful for their efforts.