WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita city council has reversed a decision it made in December and withdrawn its support for a proposal to grant driver’s permits for people in the U.S. illegally.
The council voted Tuesday to remove the proposal from its 2015 legislative agenda, upsetting advocates for Latinos living in Wichita. The council had voted 4-3 in December to support the idea, but on Tuesday councilman Jeff Blubaugh changed his vote, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Blubaugh said he changed his mind after hearing from constituents and after groups that originally supported the idea — such as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Kansas Farm Bureau — withdrew their support.
A proposal before the Legislature would allow immigrants who entered the country illegally to obtain driver’s permits so they can buy insurance.
“The whole illegal deal bothered people,” Blubaugh said. “Why would we give a driving permit to somebody who’s an illegal immigrant?”
Sulma Arias, executive director of Sunflower Community Action, said in an email that the decision was “stunning.”
“The vote is further proof that the city of Wichita devalues the lives and contributions of Latinos, which make up 15 percent of the population of the city,” the statement read.
People protesting the decision interrupted Mayor Carl Brewer’s State of the City address Tuesday night before being escorted out by police.
Brewer, who supports the measure, said during the council meeting that the issue won’t go away.
“There will be a point in time where you will have no choice but to deal with it,” he said.
Blubaugh rejected Arias’ suggestion that he reversed his decision because he is seeking re-election in April.
“It has nothing to do with that,” he said. “In my opinion, it should have never been on the city agenda, and I probably should have stood up for it (in December). It’s not a city issue. It’s something that should be figured out separately at the state level.”
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