Topeka Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate for Kansas secretary of state who helped Arizona legislators approve controversial immigration law, said Wednesday he is working with those legislators on another controversial proposal -- this one aimed at denying automatic citizenship in that state to children born in the country to parents who are illegal immigrants.
Kobach said he has worked on the so-called "birthright citizenship" issue over the past month with Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican.
Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, children born in the U.S. are guaranteed citizenship. But Kobach said the 14th Amendment, written following the Civil War, was directed at guaranteeing citizenship to freed slaves.
Kobach said he, Pearce and others are exploring ways that states could change that law without amending the Constitution. Kobach is an attorney and former law professor.
Supporters of changing "birthright citizenship" say it would stop immigrants from coming to the U.S. illegally to have children who would be automatically U.S. citizens.
Kobach helped write Arizona's SB 1070, which requires local law enforcement to check citizenship status of people suspected of being in the country illegally. He has also represented several cities in efforts to pass local ordinances against illegal immigration.
Kobach's comments about the birthright citizenship issue came in response to questions at a news conference in which he announced that if elected secretary of state he would use the office to increase civic education.
He said he plans to do this by enhancing the secretary of state's website to include teaching tools on the U.S. and Kansas constitutions, traveling the state to speak about the constitutional issues, and holding an annual youth summit where students could observe and interact with members of the Legislature.
He also said he would enhance the secretary of state's website to be a one-stop service for people to report allegations of voter fraud. He also wants to expand the office's role in prosecuting voter fraud.
Kobach's opponent, Democratic Secretary of State Chris Biggs issued a statement, saying, "The real fraud is the continued and dishonest insistence that Kansas elections aren’t secure. Our election process is fair and secure, and every eligible citizen who has the right to vote is able to do so. There is no need to radically reinvent the role of the Secretary of State; this office must remain free of partisanship and focused on real issues that affect Kansans."