Commentary: Anti-immigrant rhetoric needs to be toned down

The Kansas City StarMarch 21, 2011 

Shoot ’em down like swine!

The outrageous suggestion that illegal immigrants could be dealt with like feral hogs — killed by snipers from helicopters — flew out of Kansas state Rep. Virgil Peck’s mouth and across the Internet.

Yet the vow of Rep. Lance Kinzer of Olathe to continue pushing for Arizona-like immigration bills is chilling, too, for its fiscal irresponsibility.

Peck quickly issued an apology for his gaffe, saying he was joking. Ha, ha — equating murder with target practice. So not LOL.

Meanwhile, Kinzer proclaimed he wasn’t going to take no for an answer to his scheme to have Kansas go the way of Arizona, mimicking that state’s attempts to regulate immigration. On Monday, Kinzer’s bill was tabled in committee. The bill expects police to handle immigration issues and some businesses to jump through hoops to prove the work authorization of employees, among other measures.

Peck made himself look the fool.

Kinzer’s out to brand the entire state ridiculous.

Immigration is a federal issue. Constitutional challenges to that long-held standard are working through the courts. It would be foolish for Kansas to join places like Arizona, asking for legal bills to defend such laws.

The fiscal note on Kinzer’s bill put initial costs as $100,000 and then $66,000 annually just for the attorney general’s office.

That’s without the inevitable lawsuits. Kinzer needs someone to convince him why many states are holding back, declining to pass bills like the one he envisions. That might be a challenge if he’s listening to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a force behind many immigration proposals nationally and their defense.

Poor Fremont, Neb., took Kobach’s advice. It passed an immigration law, then decided against enforcing it.

Too late.

Fremont had to raise property taxes last year to help pay the costs of lawsuits against the city.

Energy and funds would be better spent pressing the U.S. Congress for the wide-scale changes needed to immigration policy.

Finally, in case anyone perceives the heavy backlash to Peck as political correctness gone amok, here is the explainer: Peck crossed a line. His comment dehumanized people to the point of labeling them expendable.

The fact that it slipped out of his mouth so readily indicates that the tenor of the debate over illegal immigration may be reaching dangerous levels. That’s the consensus of many who track conversation around public issues.

I don’t believe Peck was seriously calling for violence. But some part of him was influenced to spout off so horribly, in public, so all the nation would be aghast.

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