Native Legislator Ponka-We Victors Turns Tables at Immigration Hearing in Kansas

March 22, 2013

A remark about immigration made by a Native State Representative at a hearing in the Kansas House of Representatives has attracted the attention of major media -- and yet to many Natives, it's merely the plainest of facts.

The hearing concerned the legality of offering children of illegal immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rate to attend universities and community colleges in Kansas. The Legislature was seeking to overturn a statute that has been on the books for nearly a decade -- a Topeka Capital-Journal story described the effort as an "annual attempt." 

Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita), a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and the Tohono O'odham Nation, and the only American Indian in the Kansas State Legislature, offered her reading of the situation to Kris Kobach, Kansas' Secretary of State.

"I think it’s funny Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you," Victors said, prompting cheers from the gallery, described by the Capital-Journal as "heavily pro-immigrant." Rep. Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) the chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, felt moved to tell the room, "Please don't do that."

The encounter takes on added significance when one considers the man Victors was addressing. Kris Kobach is known around the country as an anti-immigration hawk, and had a hand in such controversial measures as Arizona's SB 1070. As Mother Jones puts it, "if there's a controversial new anti-immigration law that's captured national attention, chances are that it has Kris Kobach's imprimatur."

The moment was encapsulated with the image below (note that it borrows the upraised hand and feather from Idle No More posters) which has been heavily shared on social media:

Ponka-We Victors on Illigal Immigrants