Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state, may be the next United States attorney general.
A Kobach pick reflects that immigration is one of President-Elect Donald Trump’s top concerns heading into office. Throughout his law career, Kobach has fought against illegal immigration, and he helped to craft the controversial 2010 Arizona immigration bill which went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Kobach is currently serving on Donald Trump’s immigration transition team, but according to The Wichita Eagle, he is in consideration to be the attorney general of the United States. Here’s what you need to know about Kobach and his relationship with Donald Trump.
1. He Has Filed Several Lawsuits Challenging Laws Favorable to Undocumented Immigrants
Kris Kobach graduated from Yale Law School, and he went on to serve as counsel with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, challenging several laws favorable to undocumented immigrants throughout the 2000s.
For instance, he challenged a Kansas that would grant lower in-state tuition to some undocumented immigrants. In order to qualify for the tuition benefit, a person would have to have graduated from a Kansas high school, and they had to be actively seeking legal status, according to Lawrence Journal-World.
However, Kobach argued that the law discriminated against legal U.S. residents and that it treated undocumented immigrants better than American citizens. The case was dismissed when a judge ruled that the students did not have standing to sue because they didn’t face concrete and imminent injury. Kobach has filed lawsuits against similar laws in California and Nebraska.
In addition, Kobach has come to the defense of laws meant to crack down on illegal immigration. For instance, he argued in support of a Missouri law that included sanctions on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. He was successful in that case, with the Missouri judge upholding the law, according to The New York Times.
In an interview with The New York Times, Kobach pushed back against accusations that the laws he supports unfairly target Latinos and divide communities.
“The driving principle is to restore the rule of law,” he said. “You have members of Congress throwing up their hands and saying the system is broken. I really think that’s a cop-out. Different parts of the system are working fine. The question is, How do you actually enforce the law in a vast nation that has very different circumstances in different states?”
2. He Crafted Strict Immigration Laws in Arizona & Alabama
An Arizona law passed in 2010 became the subject of a fierce nationwide debate, as it was one of the strictest of its kind. The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act made it a state crime for an undocumented immigrant to be in Arizona without carrying their legal paperwork. It also allowed members of law enforcement to stop anyone and ask for their papers if they suspected the person might be undocumented.
The law received criticism from those who argued that it encouraged police officers to racially profile, stopping minorities even if they didn’t have any reasonable suspicion. Kris Kobach helped to craft much of the bill’s language.
SB 1070 was at the center of several lawsuits and it eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in Arizona v. United States, the court upheld the section of the law which allowed police officers to stop suspected undocumented immigrants, although it struck down other provisions which they said violated the Supremacy Clause. Earlier this year, though, the state of Arizona announced an end to the requirement that police officers ask potential undocumented immigrants for their papers, saying that if a police officer has this suspicion, they should contact the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to The LA Times.
“Officers shall not prolong a stop, detention or arrest solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich wrote. “Officers shall not contact, stop, detain or arrest an individual based on race, color, or national origin, except when it is part of a suspect description.”
Kobach also helped draft Alabama’s Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. It contains a similar provision about police officers stopping immigrants if they have a “reasonable suspicion,” but in addition, it says that undocumented immigrants may receive no public benefits and they can’t attend public colleges. It also requires that public school officials report to the state students who they suspect are undocumented, and it requires that landlords not rent properties to undocumented immigrants.
3. He Has Also Supported Strict Voter ID Laws
In addition for immigration laws, Kobach is also known for supporting strict voter ID laws. For example, that immigration law he crafted, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, also required that those in Alabama show I.D. when voting. And while Kansas’ Secretary of State, Kobach barred over 30,000 people from voting unless they produced proof of citizenship.
According to The Washington Post, the Election Assistance Commission altered the instructions on voter registration forms in Kansas, requiring citizens to show some form of documentation before they can vote. But the director of the bi-partisan agency made this change without consulting the rest of the commissioners, and civil rights groups, including the League of Women Voters, ended up suing the agency.
Kobach said that this change was made at his request, and he said it was done because he had evidence that there were undocumented immigrants registering to vote without proper documentation. Election-law expects told The Washington Post that Kobach was making claims of voter fraud without evidence in order to prevent minorities from participating in elections.
“He’s a provocateur,” University of California at Irvine election law expert Richard L. Hasen told The Post. “Kobach has been a leader nationally in making irresponsible claims that voter fraud is a major problem in this country.”
When speaking about this case, Kobach called the League of Women Voters communists.
“The ACLU and their fellow communist friends, the League of Women Voters — you can quote me on that, the communist League of Women Voters — the ACLU and the communist League of Women Voters sued,” Kobach said, according to Lawrence World-Journal.
When Kobach’s history with voter ID laws was criticized by Hillary Clinton, Kobach called Clinton a “knucklehead” and said that she was “getting her pantsuit in a twist over nothing.”
4. He Once Speculated That President Obama Would End the Prosecution of Black People
Those comments about the League of Women Voters being communists and about Hillary Clinton “getting her pantsuit in a twist” aren’t the only statements Kobach has made that drew criticism from those on the left. In a radio appearance in 2015, Kobach suggested that the Obama administration isn’t too far away from banning the prosecution of all black people.
According to the Kansas City Star, a caller to the radio show said that he imagined that in the new future, no black person would be convicted of any crime. Kobach agreed with the listener’s statement and said that this scenario isn’t too far-fetched.
“Well, it’s already happened more or less in the case of civil rights laws,” Kobach said. “So I guess it’s not a huge jump, I think it’s unlikely, but you know I’ve learned to say with this president, never say never.”
Kobach also drew criticism earlier this year when he, again on talk radio, suggested that if Hispanics ever become the majority in the United States, they might conduct ethnic cleansing. This time, a listener called in and said that whenever a race outnumbers another, they try to run them out and kill them. Kobach responded to the caller by saying that it’s not unreasonable to think that this could happen in the United States.
“What protects us in America from any kind of ethnic cleansing is the rule of law, of course,” Kobach said. “And the rule of law used to be unassailable, used to be taken for granted in America. And now, of course, we have a president who disregards the law when it suits his interests. So, while I normally would answer that by saying, ‘Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never happen in America,’ I wonder what could happen. I still don’t think it’s going to happen in America, but I have to admit, things are strange and they are happening.”
5. He Strongly Supports Donald Trump’s Immigration Proposals
Kris Kobach endorsed Donald Trump for president in February of 2016, long before the majority of Republicans were willing to get on board with the Trump campaign. And while some Republicans still distance themselves from some of Trump’s immigration proposals, Kobach is strongly in favor of Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border. Kobach is currently on Donald Trump’s immigration transition team.
“There’s no question the wall is going to get built,” Kobach said in a recent interview with 12 KWCH. “The only question is how quickly will it get done and who pays for it?”
In an appearance on CNN this week, Kris Kobach also praised Donald Trump’s recent comments that he will immediately deport all undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes since coming to the United States, with Trump estimating that there are about two to three million of these people. Kobach said that under the Trump administration, any felony will be considered a deportable offense. He also said that there are known gang members in the country that may not have been convicted of any crime but that will be deported anyway, according to Politico.
“That’s what this administration will probably do and what the Obama administration has not been doing,” Kobach said.
In July, Kobach was able to lobby the Republican platform committee to include language about Donald Trump’s southern border wall in the party platform, according to CNN.
“The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” the platform says.