By JADEN MOUNT
Topeka City Police have issued 24 citations and arrested 18 individuals since May 14 when Kansans joined nonviolent protests organized by the Poor People’s Campaign.
The campaign launched as a 30-state, six-week program. The organization’s website traces their roots back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Issues the organization wishes to address primarily focus on poverty and wealth inequality.
The issues the protesters in Topeka have taken up are voter rights and immigration policies. The organization claims racist voter suppression laws have been passed in 23 states since 2010. Their argument on the matter includes not only African-Americans, but also Native Americans, Native Alaskans and Muslims.
The Topeka protesters seem to have specifically targeted Kansas Secretary of State and Republican governor candidate Kris Kobach for his actions related to voter laws and immigration policies.
Kobach’s campaign office released his official statement May 18: “What these protesters do not seem to understand is that the law is the law, and illegal means illegal. I have fought illegal immigration throughout my entire career. When I am governor, Kansas will stop giving in-state tuition to illegals, and sanctuary cities will cease to exist in the state.”
In February 2017, six Kansas counties were classified as sanctuary counties because of their alleged protection of undocumented immigrants. The counties included Finney, Harvey, Sedgwick, Butler, Shawnee and Johnson.
In the county commissioners meeting Feb. 1, 2017, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said the county jail would not hold undocumented individuals longer than the time permitted, even for ICE officials. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Facebook page posted March 1 that the sanctuary county label was removed.
Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden also stated his office was cooperating with ICE officials and requested to have the sanctuary status removed, according to aKansas City Star article in March 2017 . As of publication, Tiger Media Network has received no response from the office if the status was removed.
An inquiry also was sent to the Center for Immigration Studies seeking information on if any counties or cities in Kansas have the “sanctuary” label. The inquiry was not answered, but Marguerite Telford, the organization’s director of communications, called the Poor People’s Campaign an “open border group” that “supports illegal immigration.”
Kobach remains a strong supporter of strict voting laws and immigration policies. In an April court case, however, the candidate failed to provide any evidence in support of his claims of voter fraud. On his campaign website, Kobach calls Kansas “the sanctuary state of the Midwest.”
The candidate also shared the Kansas City Star’s article on rising tuition costs on his official Facebook page May 24. The post read, “It will cost more to attend KU, K-State, and WSU next year. We could stem the rising tide of tuition hikes, if Kansas stopped granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens. When I’m governor, subsidies to illegal aliens will stop.”
With the August primary elections months away, Kobach most likely will find himself defending not only these stances but his support for the recently signed anti-LGBTQ adoption bill. Kobach faces a number of other Republicans for the nomination, including current Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Meanwhile, the Poor People’s Campaign continues protests in Topeka. The focus of today’s protests is on immigration policies, redistributing funding to veterans, schools and public housing, and calling for a ban on assault weapons.