With her two children at her side, Sandra Romero said that aggressive enforcement of immigration laws tore her family apart.
Her husband immigrated alone as a young man trying to escape civil war in Guatemala, helped his parents, and built a family.
But immigration agents tracked him down after he tried to obtain legal residency after taking some bad legal advice.
"We're not the same family that we were before," she said through tears at the front of Our Lady of the New Covenant Chapel at Newman University, one of several immigration vigils held across the state Tuesday. "Even they say they're not the happy children they used to be."
In Kansas, it's been a tough year for illegal immigrants and their supporters.
The difference has mainly been the election of Kris Kobach, one of the nation's most prominent proponents of tough immigration laws, as Kansas secretary of state.
The Legislature has three major bills on the docket based on the belief that illegal immigration is harming the state's economy, burdening its universities and tainting its elections.
Kobach, the co-author of Arizona's immigration bill, said Tuesday evening that many of the arguments against the bills are misleading.
House Bill 2372, the Arizona-style legislation, targets only illegal immigrants, doesn't split up families, and protects legal immigrants and U.S. citizens who compete with illegal immigrants for jobs, he said.
"If these groups protesting really cared about U.S. citizens who are of minority race or ethnicity, they'd be just as adamant as I am that we enforce our immigration laws," he said.
In the Capitol, opponents of the bills have been packing committee rooms to overflowing.
The three measures aimed at illegal immigrants are:
* House Bill 2372: Modeled on Arizona's law, this measure would require local police to detain and check the immigration status of people they come in contact with if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to house or offer other support to illegal immigrants.
The bill has been tabled by the House Judiciary Committee.
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