A coalition of business groups will propose Kansas start a new program to help some illegal immigrants remain in the state so they can hold down jobs in agriculture and other industries with labor shortages, coalition representatives disclosed.

A spokeswoman for the Washington-based Immigration Policy Council called the proposal “unprecedented” and questioned whether the federal government would allow such a program, though she was sympathetic toward supporters’ goals. Utah has set up a guest-worker program, but it doesn’t take effect until 2013 and was part of a broader package of initiatives on immigration.

The Kansas proposal also is notable because it complicates the debate over immigration issues in the home state of Kris Kobach, a former law professor who helped draft tough laws against illegal immigration in Alabama and Arizona. Kobach, known nationally for advising state and local officials across the nation on immigration issues, is secretary of state, the chief elections official in Kansas.

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