Kris Kobach Defends "Mean-Spirited, Racist" Alabama Immigration Law

June 14, 2011 10:21 am ET — Solange Uwimana

Kris Kobach (R), the Kansas secretary of state who co-authored Arizona's controversial immigration law, recently bragged to Politico: "Some politicians golf in their spare time. ... I spend mine defending American sovereignty." Kobach made those comments after reportedly admitting he had "drafted" another immigration law recently passed in Alabama "on his laptop while sitting in a turkey blind near Gardiner," Kansas. Civil rights groups have blasted the law as a "sweeping attack on immigrants and people of color," and said it is "mean-spirited" and "racist." But on Fox News' Fox & Friends on Monday, Kobach defended the Alabama law, saying it "is extremely fair and it upholds the American value of the rule of law":

KOBACH: The Alabama law expressly provides that law enforcement officers cannot consider a person's race when enforcing the law or their ethnicity or their national origin. The Alabama law is extremely fair and it upholds the American value of the rule of law.

And as far as protecting Alabamans, let's remember that there are Americans all over this country, but particularly in Alabama, who are trying to put food on the table. They need jobs. And this bill says it's gonna be harder to unlawfully work in Alabama and take that job away from a U.S. citizen or an alien who's been following the rules and is here legally.


As Politico noted, Kobach is "the nation's pre-eminent lawyer working on behalf of those seeking to crack down on illegal immigration." One of those is noted hate group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. But Kobach, who has amassed quite the legal fees traveling around the United States in an effort to rid the country of Latino undocumented immigrants — punishing them by trying to deny them and their children basic rights — also has a history of anti-immigrant action and rhetoric.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, as an adviser on immigration and border security to Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft, he "helped create the controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which required tens of thousands of Muslim and Middle Eastern visa holders to register with the government and be fingerprinted. Outraged, civil liberties and Arab-American groups argued the policy amounted to racial and ethnic profiling."

As a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kobach assigned the book Who Are We? : The Challenges To America's National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington. In the book, Huntington writes: "In the late twentieth century, developments occurred that, if continued, could change America into a culturally bi-furcated Anglo-Hispanic society with two national languages. ... The continuation of high levels of Mexican and Hispanic immigration plus the low rates of assimilation of these immigrants into American society and culture could eventually change America into a country of two languages, two cultures, and two peoples." The book also warns Americans against the supposed threat of a "reconquista," the discredited smear that Mexican-Americans and Mexican citizens are plotting to take over the U.S. Southwest for Mexico.

Kobach also reportedly once fought "efforts to allow a stroke rehabilitation center to operate in a northern neighborhood," saying the city didn't have "to give a disabled citizen more than what other citizens have."

During Monday's segment on Fox & Friends, Kobach defended provisions in the Alabama law that make it illegal to knowingly give an undocumented immigrant a ride and require schools to check students' immigration status. In the process, he seemed to liken undocumented immigrants to illegal drugs:

KOBACH: For example, in Alabama, you can't — if you're an illegal alien, you cannot attend university in the state. Arizona just says we're not going to give you in-state tuition. Alabama says, look, if you're here illegally, you're not even supposed to be in the country. The Alabama law also says that K through 12 education, although they will continue to provide free public education to the children — to an illegal alien households, who are themselves illegal.

Alabama will count and just try to keep track of what the total expenses for taxpayers in the state — not denying anyone the public education, but saying, look, we want to know how many people are citizens, how many people are here legally from other countries and illegally from other countries.

Alabama will also say, for example, that if a vehicle is being used to knowingly smuggle illegal aliens in the state, the vehicle is subject to civil forfeiture, in the same way that a vehicle used to transport drugs would be subject to civil forfeiture, meaning the state could seize the vehicle.

When Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interjected that the law "is pretty tough stuff," and highlighted the complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union that the "law undermines core American values of fairness and equality ... and does nothing to ensure the safety and economic security of Alabama," Kobach replied: "Well, the ACLU is always very quick to rush to the courthouse door and say things that are incorrect."

Kobach may argue that he doesn't "have a racist or nativist bone in [his] body," but his anti-immigrant statements and his efforts to chase immigrants out of the country belie those platitudes. As Newsweek reported in a profile of Kobach headlined "America's Deporter in Chief":

In the absence of congressional action, Kobach is after what he says is the best alternative: "People often see federal immigration policy as a dichotomy between amnesty and deportation. But the most rational approach is a third one: you ratchet up the enforcement so that people make their owndecisions to start following the law." In other words, take away the reasons people come to America illegally — education, work, housing, and, yes, citizenship for their kids — and, Kobach says, they will "self-deport."

This strategy, as the Center for American Progress showed, also serves to drive out legal foreign-born residents, who flee to escape a rising wave of "anti-immigrant and sometimes racist sentiments" ostensibly directed at undocumented immigrants. Isn't that the intended goal of the nativist lobby — to chase away all non-white immigrants?