Archive for Monday, May 10, 2010

Kansas lawyer is architect of many immigration laws

May 10, 2010


Kris Kobach

Kris Kobach

— When politicians and police across the county want to crack down on illegal immigration, they often reach out to the same man: a little-known Kansas attorney with an Ivy League education who is the architect behind many of the nation's most controversial immigration laws.

Kris Kobach could not attend West Point because of diabetes, but he regards his efforts on immigration as a substitute for military service.

"They can't call him trailer park trash, which is the kind of comment you hear about advocates on our side," said Michael Hethmon, director of the Washington-based Immigration Reform Law Institute.

Kobach helps draft proposed laws and, after they are adopted, trains officers to enforce them. If the laws are challenged, he goes to court to defend them.

His most recent project was advising Arizona officials on a new law that empowers police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. Critics say it violates the Constitution's provisions against unreasonable search and seizure by allowing police to engage in racial profiling.

But Kobach insists an officer stopping a crowded van for a traffic violation has a reasonable suspicion its occupants are illegal immigrants if none of them has an ID, the van is traveling a known smuggling route and the driver is evasive.

"I could not care less whether they come from Mexico or Germany or Japan or China," said Kobach, who speaks with the affable air of a college professor, even when making cutting political remarks. "An alien who also is here with terrorist intentions can carry any passport. This isn't about race or national origin."

Before the law was passed last month, Kobach spent several years consulting with its main sponsor. And he has a $300-an-hour contract to teach deputies in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, to enforce immigration policies.

Detractors are not impressed by Kobach's degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale, or the coveted White House fellowship he served during George W. Bush's first term.

While at the White House, he created a post-9/11 Justice Department program requiring immigrants from 25 mostly Muslim nations who were already in the U.S. to re-register with the federal government. Civil libertarians argued that it led to unwarranted detentions of law-abiding immigrants.

"He promotes himself as absolutely, positively being a constitutional scholar on these issues, and he's just wrong," said Bill Brewer, a Dallas attorney who has faced off with Kobach in court over immigration laws in Farmers Branch, Texas.

Kobach, a 44-year-old lifelong Republican with movie-star good looks, learned as a Topeka teenager that diabetes would keep him from a desired appointment to West Point. His focus on immigration developed after Sept. 11, when as an aide to Attorney General John Ashcroft, he and other Justice Department officials learned some of the 9/11 attackers had lived in the U.S. illegally.

"It was a missed opportunity of tragic dimensions," Kobach said. "That realization struck home with me. People were saying, 'How could we have prevented this?'"

After leaving Washington, he returned to Kansas and to a job on the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school faculty that he'd had since 1996, then launched a campaign for Congress. He lost.

But Kobach drew attention by challenging a Kansas law that reduced tuition rates for illegal immigrants. The law survived, but frustrated conservatives took note of his work.

Mayor Lou Barletta, of Hazleton, Pa., called Kobach in 2006 to discuss a proposal to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and to deny permits to businesses hiring them. Kobach later defended the law in federal court.

The mayor said he contacted Kobach after a news report quoted him saying Hazleton had the authority to enact such an ordinance, contradicting other legal scholars.

"It really only took one conversation to realize that he truly knew what he was talking about," Barletta recalled.

Kobach largely wrote and then defended a similar ordinance in Valley Park, Mo., that was upheld by a federal appeals court.

Last year, he defended Farmers Branch, Texas, in a federal lawsuit targeting its landlord law. And this year, he represented residents of Fremont, Neb., outside Omaha, as they forced a vote on their own immigration proposals.

Federal judges struck down the Farmers Branch and Hazleton ordinances, but both are on appeal.

Kobach also wrote sections of a 2008 Missouri law cracking down on illegal immigration and this year drafted an unsuccessful proposal in Idaho requiring employers to screen workers.

Kobach said he's consulted with legislators in at least six other states on various measures.

"I would say he is the brain behind most of them," said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute's office at the New York University School of Law.

Kobach, elected Kansas state GOP chairman in 2007, quit early last year to launch a campaign for secretary of state. His first proposal for legislators: require new voters to prove citizenship when they register and make all voters show photo IDs at the polls.

"You can take steps to address the national security issues and still be left with the problem of millions of people here illegally taking jobs in a recession from lawful residents," he said.

Critics suggest Kobach's immigration work is designed to boost his political career. A "Krazy Kris Kobach" website features an anonymous blogger who exhorts followers to end Kobach's career.

Arizona state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat and attorney who voted against her state's new law, said Kobach is not to be underestimated.

"What I'm concerned about," she said, "is there are all these legislators in all these states who think he's a good guy and want to take his advice."


8 years ago

Phelps, Kline, Brownback & now Kobach!

Keith 8 years ago

"Kris Kobach could not attend West Point because of diabetes, but he regards his efforts on immigration as a substitute for military service."

What a crock.

average 8 years ago

The "if any citizen doesn't think any policeman or department is enforcing immigration law to the absolute fullest extent possible, he can sue them in civil court" part of the bill is going to be fun.

Kobach just gave tens of thousands of very bored Arizona senior citizens a new hobby.

md 8 years ago

God bless Kobach! God bless Arizona!

cowboy 8 years ago

Who wrote this article , Kobach ? Why not a few words on the sponsor group FAIR. Their board of directors is a who's who of 21 st century racists. How about the local sponsor of the bill Rusty Childress who espouses his own racist rants , holds meetings at his car dealership in Phoenix , all the while having illegals cleaning his building and working in the detailing area.

Expose these phonies for what they are , out and out Racists !

md 8 years ago

Great-the race card is played again-----ho hum.

Alabamastreet 8 years ago

Shameful, but expected. The Phelps comparison is a good one.

NolongeratJRP 8 years ago

I don't know anyone who is against immigration but I know lots of people who are against illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is what all this is about and both the Federal and State governments have failed, so I am glad that someone has stepped up to the plate.

cowboy 8 years ago

The sad truth is that Kobach is so incompetent he has yet to write a bill that will hold up in court. No different than Limbaugh , Beck , armey , Palin and others , a huckster out making money off of the right wing hysteria

citizen0123 8 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

cowboy 8 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

cowboy 8 years ago

little high water for my taste snap , hey mods , lighten up a bit , were big boys , if you can't take criticism , don't post

somebodynew 8 years ago

Well, to me he sounds just like a Philllll Kliiiiine. A one issue person who will spend all his time devoted to that one topic to the detrement of the rest of his duties.

Is that what we really want to elect - zealots who only care about their "key" issue, as opposed to actually running the office to which they are elected and serving ALL the citizens of the State????

somebodynew 8 years ago

citizen - YES, sorry I should have made that clearer. I am against illegal aliens here, but just don't feel we need "another" State Official elected who will only focus on his one "Mission" in life. Had that with Kline and look how much money that is still costing us. And those types seem to failed to do the rest of the job they were elected to.

SeaBee 8 years ago

The knucklehead has a pretty poor track record in these sorts of things:

SeaBee 8 years ago

The knucklehead has a pretty poor track record in these sorts of things:

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

The "R" card has gotten all dog-eared & crumpled by being yanked out of the pack and thrown down every time a steamer hears of someone who wants American law enforced. Be legal or be gone, whether you are from Sweden of Peru.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Keep on with the Big Lie, js. Dear Leader is depending on you to suppress dissenting views.

equalaccessprivacy 8 years ago

Kansans should all bow their heads in shame! Gosh, the ethics of this place stink to to the heights-- way beyond South Carolina.

equalaccessprivacy 8 years ago

Yup, you got it right--ivalueamerica. That's exactly how the twisted Powers-That- Be here in wonderful Lawrence want you to tell it, too. If you' get victimized by the whitebutt hillbillies in this enlightened state of KS and live to complain about it--hey, it makes sense you must be the perpetrator. Time to throw the dirt where it belongs. Kansans are all about scapegoating!

bradh 8 years ago

My understanding is the Arizona law is pretty much cut and paste from the federal law. Something that has been on the books for I'd guess 100 years or more. Long before the illegal alien problem we have now. I'm not sure how enforcing a federal law is racist.

If you listened to or read any of the testimony during the Arizona debate you would know that they have a serious problem. The illegal immigrants have gone from mostly people coming across the border to find work to armed drug runners and felons who are robbing, terrorizing and killing the ranchers in the area. As part of the testimony it was revealed that 81% of the cops killed in the state were killed by illegal aliens.

It sounds to me as if you and those like you who don't like the Arizona law are unamerican racists and don't care what IS BEING done to the mostly white Americans on the border because federal laws are ignored.

ivalueamerica 8 years ago

Cut and paste is the soundbite Rush spewed out and the dittoheads and those who do not bother to go past soundbites believe as God's honest truth, but it is not.

The law, more or less, is the same, but the difference comes in enforcement. It is void of due process, reasonable search and seizure and most law enforcement, including by the way the Arizona Association of Police Officers, believe it will be ripe for racial profiling, yet a third Constitutional violation.

We need to stop illegal immigrants, but we can not destroy the Constitution. I agree no President in 50 years has done anything significant to address the issue, but that is not a call to destroy the Constitution, it is a call to demand a Constitutional solution to the crisis.

ivalueamerica 8 years ago

it is false to claim the Arizona law is a cut and paste of Federal law.

The violation is the same, the enforcement is totally different and the enforcement would require American Citizens to prove citizenship or face being deported in a system that would potentially violate the 4th and 14th Amendments and it is opposed by most law enforcement in Arizona for that very reason.

novalissuperstar 8 years ago

Judging from the health care debacle, for some reason we are obligated to compare ourselves to other developed nations: Every nation that has universal healthcare has much stricter illegal immigration policy enforcement. They do so because they realize that having undocumented workers working illegally harms the economy and particularly the working poor that illegals compete with. is a link to a study done on the impact of rampant immigration on the black community in the latter half of the last century. It is significant.

The new law in Arizona is a result of the Federal government ignoring the issue for decades. Both sides of the spectrum are complicit with not taking this issue seriously. The law does not allow the police to pull over brown people at random, that is explicitly illegal. All it does is require law enforcement to check immigration status if they have reasonable suspicion that an individual is not here legally.

If law enforcement can't ask for something as basic and fundamental as identification of the legal right to be in the country you may as well dissolve the borders and welcome everyone with open arms. How else could you enforce it? This may feel like a good thing to do on many levels but would be a complete disaster in the real world.

This isn't about some sort of mystical karmic justice. Illegal immigration has negative effects in this country, focused primarily on the working poor through wage stagnation, a reliance upon cheap ignorant labor, and increased social and racial (LA RAZA!) strife. We're only encouraging these real problems affecting real people on the bottom of the food chain by not doing something so simple as protecting our sovereignty.

BigAl 8 years ago

oskiejackie.... you are correct. Those super large beef plants in Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal are full of illegals. Everyone knows about it but nothing is done. This has been going on for years. Here we are in a bright RED state but nothing has been done. Political contributions? Probably.

Maddy Griffin 8 years ago

Considering that this country was built on the backs of immigrants, I think we should ALL be thankful that the Native Americans didn't deport us all. Look at how that worked for them.

novalissuperstar 8 years ago

Every law may be abused. This is a self-evident fact of human nature and power. That is no reason not to have them. Decades of lackadaisical immigration law enforcement by the federal government have led to "abuse" by millions of illegal immigrants, their employers, and those who profit indirectly with no concern or realization with how they harm the nation and themselves as a whole over the long term. The Arizona law is no bigger an assault on civil rights as any other law in the hands of an abusive cop. Blame the officer, not the law if it happens.

Racism IS a bogeyman because most people can't discuss it without being hysterical so it isn't worth trying. If someone pulls the racism trump card in any sort of issue you may as well cut the mics and go home. Hopefully with more attention on this foreign and cultural invasion we'll be able to get beyond that and maybe one will be able to say its OK and completely natural and human to be ethnocentric (even if you're white!)

Yoda51 8 years ago

"Ethnocentric: characterized by or based on the attitude that one's own group is superior. " ~ Merriam-Webster

Yeah, Nova, I'm pretty sure it is a human trait but not sure it's something to be proud of.

novalissuperstar 8 years ago

The larger point is that it is impossible to have a meaningful discussion about something if the immediate reaction to "crimethink" is to be ostracized and ignored.

The more specific point is that in 2010 ethnicity is central to this issue. It isn't coming from evil white bigots. Hispanic ethnocentrism is the driving force behind most of the vitriolic opposition to this law. There's nothing unconstitutional about the law. There's nothing racist about it. If given the choice, would Hispanic organizations that oppose the law take a repeal of it if they had to accept real enforcement of current federal law? No, I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be on their agenda either. It never has been, it never will be.

There are few positive economic benefits to permitting illegal immigration for the nation as a whole. It breeds an indifference to the rule of law. Unemployment is sky high. Inflation adjusted weekly wages have been stagnant for decades. We simply don't need MORE labor, especially cheap ignorant labor, in this country. That is why being able to accept and talk about the nature of ethnocentrism openly is important, because it is the central underlying issue. I don't blame them for wanting to come here on a personal level, but it just isn't good for America. There's plenty of potential laborers out there, many we could potentially get off various sorts of welfare. It isn't the law that they have a problem with, it is the enforcement of any sort of borders at all.

Yoda51 8 years ago

Yeah, just saying, you were making a pretty rational argument there until you hit the word "ethnocentric". See, it's the superiority thing that blows up your argument. How one group and its culture is intrinsically superior just by virtue of being white (or brown or black). The notion of white cultural superiority is straight out of the Pat Buchanan school of social policy. Sorry, ain't no way that's gonna fly if you want to have a rational discussion about immigration law reform. Suggesting a solution based on the notion of "ethnocentricity" effectively shuts down your argument. Cut the mics and go home.

novalissuperstar 8 years ago

Alright. Guilt by association with Pat Buchanan, hate chains (not your comment) and the conversation is dead. That is exactly what I was talking about. We may have different worldviews and values, that is obvious. You know some of mine. What are yours?

I may be ignorant but I am open minded so I'll ask: Why does it shut down the argument. Why is it irrational? What is rational immigration reform? Often this kind of thing may seem so obvious as to not justify explaining, but there is lack of understanding and I am genuinely curious.

novalissuperstar 8 years ago

Being ethnocentric isn't having an objective list of how a certain people are "superior" to another. Nobody rational says that their particular group is full of superior in every single way übermenschen. A better way to look at it is that ethnicity (not just race, but culture as well) plays a huge role in how a person looks at themselves and the world and that to think that you, your family, your community and your customs are more important than those completely alien to you is completely natural and normal.

These kinds of value judgments are made in other self-identified groups other than ethnicity be it class, social group, etc. It is how the human mind works. It is probably a status and evolutionary thing. It may be an irrational behavior but it is a real one and irrationality doesn't necessarily make it a bad one. For the most part on a day to day level it is a good thing. It is integral to all communities of humanity. Trying to suppress it is like trying to suppress eye contact because it makes some people uncomfortable.

This is central to the topic of immigration because ethnic groups tend to clash and historically they always will. We are no wiser than any man or woman who have come before us. What will the effects be of millions of people from a different ethnicity into our country in such a short time? Is it ideal? What is ideal? Does it even matter? I get the impression many peoples answer to the last question would be a resounding no because the topic is for the most part verboten. To not address this part of the human condition is to let it fester into a bigger problem later on. That is why 'cutting off the mics' is extremely harmful. Facing reality is much more rational than denying it.

Yoda51 8 years ago

Hey, I'm only quibbling with you over one word, "ethnocentric" -defined as: characterized by a belief or attitude that one's own group is superior. Most of your argument(s) is/are articulate and logical even though I'm not totally convinced by all of it. But hey, that's okay. You're entitled to your opinion. I just suggested that IMO you're shooting yourself, and your argument, in the foot by justifying a mindset which is "ethnocentric". I have no beef with any immigration law which is administered the same for all individuals. But not if it's meant to single out only one certain ethnic group. No one ethnic group is superior.

Peace out, bro.

novalissuperstar 8 years ago

"Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity."

(Wiki definition, sourced from a sociology textbook)

It's an issue of semantics. No one group is superior objectively but one must realize that it is common, natural and applies to supporters of both sides of the immigration debate. That is why it is necessary to talk about it rather than "cut off the mic" and play the racism trump card like many people instinctively do. I realize that bringing it up is not effective tool for a single particular issue but we already live in a world that thrives on the superficial rather than deeper root causes. There's no need to encourage that any further by limiting oneself to the fluff narrative espoused by talking heads on cable news and written by the professional pundit class.

Take care.

notajayhawk 8 years ago

First of all, super genius, it wasn't a direct quote from Kobach. See, had it been a quote, it would have had little marks that looked like this " " around it. You have no idea what his actual words were or in what context they were spoken - not that that's ever kept you from commenting.

Second, as I pointed out to Jesse below, it doesn't say he made a CHOICE to do this instead of military service. It said he COULD not go to West Point, and saw this as an alternate way he could serve his country.

And third, if every comment that could be interpreted in such a way as to be considered offensive was cause for apology, I guess you owe the LJW readers about 2,365 apologies.

RKLOG 8 years ago

He lives only 40 miles away in Piper. Close enough to sue Kansas, then hide in Missouri anytime he needs to.

notajayhawk 8 years ago

vertigo (Jesse Crittenden) says…

"Yes, they are almost entirely the same thing. I mean sitting in your air conditioned office writing a bill then going home to your family at 5 pm is exactly like going house to house in Fallujah looking for weapon caches, dodging IEDs, and not seeing your family for 6-18 months at a time."

Of course, you're living in a country where being a community organizer in Chicago qualifies a person to be commander-in-chief of our armed forces.

I don't believe the statement implies he considers them to be one-to-one equivalents. It says he COULD not go to West Point, not that he made a choice. Our nation's history is full of touching stories about young men who were 4-F that went door-to-door collecting scrap metal to contribute to the war effort in a way that they could. Whether you agree with his politics or not, there's no difference between what he's doing and any other civilian making the effort to serve their country in other ways.

Defender (anonymous) replies…

"I have worked for government agencies and never considered that to be a substitute."

I can see how you'd be hard pressed to find a parallel between combat duty and your job emptying waste baskets at the local SSA office.

edjayhawk (anonymous) replies…

"Like GWB getting to list in the National Guard."

And I'd love to see how dry the seat of your flight suit would be after just one ride sitting in the cockpit of an F-102, eddie.

novalissuperstar 8 years ago

I'm not too concerned about this Kobach guy but something important about the effect of disinformation and reaction to it can be illustrated by this.

The full sentence from the AP article:

"Kris Kobach could not attend West Point because of diabetes, but he regards his efforts on immigration as a substitute for military service."

Does this change your perspective at all? What does the sentence even say, how could it be interpreted? It isn't a direct quote nor did he write the article. Is there any reason to believe he really thinks that sitting behind a desk is as heroic as fighting on the front lines? It is probably a simple description of a guy who can't join the military because of a health problem but still wants to serve his country in some way.

This kind of disinformation happens everyday. If that one misquoted and out of context sentence caused this on imagine the cumulative effect of news networks, talking heads and pundits doing this on a daily basis. It happens all the time on both sides of the spectrum. How does this affect a nation at large if individuals can't trust what is being fed by a variety of media sources. How many have the time and energy to actively search for the truth? How many people simply stop caring? Something to think about.

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