FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2016
Adela de la Torre, [email protected], 213-400-7822
National Immigration Law Center Sues to Force Kansas to Disclose Information about Discriminatory Treatment of Refugees
LOS ANGELES — Kansas may not keep its unlawful discrimination against Syrian refugees a secret, according to a lawsuit filed by the National Immigration Law Center and co-counsel Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law, LLC, under the Kansas Open Records Act. The suit, filed after more than two months of requests and appeals, seeks to learn more about how officials are implementing Gov. Sam Brownback’s unconstitutional instruction to state agencies not to assist in the resettlement of certain individuals designated by the federal government as refugees.
Last November, Brownback issued an executive order instructing state officials to engage in discriminatory practices to make it difficult for Syrian refugees to begin new lives in Kansas. He has since issued a more ambiguous order that could have the same pernicious effect.
“Syrian refugees have fled unspeakable violence, undergone years of background checks, and want nothing more than to begin their lives anew in America,” said Melissa Keaney, attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “Through his order, Governor Brownback may be pushing his state agencies to make their new lives in America even more difficult, if not impossible—and he has done so in secret. We filed this lawsuit today because the public has a right to know if the state is engaging in discriminatory, unconstitutional behavior.”
“Gov. Brownback’s latest executive order leaves out way more than it includes,” said Justin Cox, cooperating attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Nowhere does it explain the circumstances under which the state would conclude that a particular refugee is a security risk, who within the state would make that determination, or if it has already been made. For all that’s known publicly, Kansas could be barring refugees from the state solely because of their religion or country of birth.”
More than ten weeks ago, NILC requested information under the Kansas Open Records Act from the governor’s office and two agencies involved in administering federally funded benefits to refugees: the Kansas Department for Women and Children and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Under the law, state officials have three business days to act on a request for public records.
“This lawsuit demonstrates what is all too common: public officials routinely violate the Kansas Open Records Act, making a mockery of the law’s promise of governmental transparency,” said Rekha Sharma-Crawford, who is serving as co-counsel on the case. “Usually the public officials get away with ignoring the law, but not this time.”
NILC and Sharma-Crawford Attorneys hope that the lawsuit will compel the state to provide more information about how it is implementing the executive order in order to shine a public light on the state’s potentially unconstitutional, discriminatory actions.
The petition for declaratory and injunctive relief is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NILC-v-Brownback-KORA-2016-03-30.pdf.
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