Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and a leading architect of draconian anti-immigrant and voter suppression laws around the nation, will reportedly be serving on Donald Trump’s presidential transition team as an immigration adviser. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Trump “has vowed to cancel President Obama’s promise to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and start deporting as many as two million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.”
According to the Journal, the transition team “includes a unit dedicated to figuring out how to build Mr. Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.” Back in April, Kobach took credit for Trump’s plan to blackmail Mexico into paying for a border wall by impounding remittances that immigrants send home to their families. A few months later, he was responsible for getting the wall into the Republican Party platform.
Earlier this year, Kobach complained that Immigration and Customs Enforcement wasn’t just rounding up and deporting undocumented immigrants who show up to protests or to testify before legislatures.
Kobach is the force behind anti-immigrant laws throughout the country, including infamously draconian measures in Arizona and Alabama (former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed that state’s law, is reportedly being considered for a Trump cabinet post). As Salon’s Amanda Marcotte wrote recently:
For years, Kobach worked primarily through the Immigration Reform Law Institute, helping draft laws such as Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 — nicknamed the “papers, please” law — meant to harass and abuse immigrants or effectively anyone who might be perceived as “foreign.”
Wherever he has gone, Kobach has left wreckage in his wake. In Pennsylvania, California, Texas and Missouri, anti-immigrant laws based on model legislation written by the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and often defended by Kobach himself, were struck down in court, usually after millions of dollars and years of heartache.
In Alabama, a statewide anti-immigrant law that Kobach helped draft slowly collapsed as the courts struck down multiple provisions, and others proved impossible to implement.
Before it collapsed, however, Kobach ran around bragging about how he wrote the Alabama law on his laptop while sitting in a duck blind. Conservative activists held this out as evidence of his supposed genius, but in retrospect it looks like further proof that Kobach doesn’t really put that much effort into making sure legislation that he drafts has a chance of holding up in court.
Kobach worked on many of these laws through the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Kobach, like Trump, has been known to be drawn to conspiracy theories, especially ones that bolster fears of the growing influence of racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. On his weekly radio show in 2014, Kobach entertained the question of a listener who wondered if a Hispanic majority in the U.S. would start conducting “ethnic cleansing,” saying that while he thought it was unlikely, “things are strange and they are happening” under President Obama. On another occasion, he told a caller it would not be a “huge jump” to think that the president might ban all criminal prosecutions of African Americans. Just this year, Kobach told a caller to his show that Obama might well oppose Kobach’s disastrous proof-of-citizenship voting restriction in Kansas because he’s not a citizen himself.
Trump’s immigration transition team is also reportedly staffed by “staffers with ties to Sen. Jeff Sessions,” the virulently anti-immigrant Alabama lawmaker.