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Last week we wrote about how Kobach, the architect of state anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56, is determined to bring a similarly destructive law to Kansas. The Kansas Business Coalition for Immigration Reform—which includes groups like the Kansas Chamber, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Farm Bureau, and restaurant, construction, and agriculture groups—was alarmed at what Kobach’s legislation could mean for the economic climate in the state, and sponsored anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist to come to the state and give Kobach a dressing-down.
According to Tim Carpenter at the Topeka Capital-Journal, Norquist compared federal immigration policy to a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, and anti-immigrant Republicans to people who want to punish everyone who’s ever broken the speed limit. “First,” he said sarcastically to the group of state legislators and business interests present, “we have to arrest them and fine everybody who has been illegally [speeding] in this country over the years. Then, and only then, will we have a conversation about changing the stupid speed limits.”
He said that immigration is a strength of the American economy, and that anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 choke the business climate when it chases away immigrants:
We’re way ahead of other countries in the ability to have immigrants come to the United States and become Americans very rapidly and contribute to growth of our economy both in big cities and in rural areas. It’s one of the strengths that we have as a nation. If you have the right tax policy, but the wrong immigration policy, you can do great damage to a state’s economy or the national economy…
[Arizona] said we’re not for asking everybody for their papers like some World War II movie, we’re interested in only asking for papers of people who violated the law. So they passed a law making it illegal to stand on the side of the road looking for work. … [Proponents say] ‘We’re not criminalizing workers or immigrants or anything like that.’ Yes they were. That’s exactly what they were doing.
When asked specifically about Kobach, Norquist dismissed him as someone who unfortunately can get attention with outrageous positions:
Norquist said the topic of immigration had been exploited by talk-show blowhards and ambitious politicians eager to contort the issue for personal gain.
He included Kobach among the loud and prominent people who had a misguided perspective on immigration. The economics and politics of the issue eventually will silence this vocal minority, Norquist said.
“A bill passed in Arizona. It’s not being helpful to their economy,” he said. “Anti-immigrant rhetoric has sometimes been used as a signifier for ‘I am the conservative,’ and stripping that out and removing that false flag of approval from the political scene is what I think will make the anti-immigrant rhetoric collapse,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s sort of like listening to a pond and thinking there must be a million bullfrogs out there and when they drain it, there are just three of them,” he said. “They are just very loud.”
And he said that in addition to economic consequences, hardline anti-immigrant laws have a political consequence for Republicans, should they keep pursuing that tack. He told Republicans that it would be difficult for them to win more Latino votes and make the case for common views on abortion and faith while also declaring war on immigrants. He said such an attempt would be akin to Republicans saying, “’Now, while we talk, you won’t mind if Egor here goes upstairs and grabs your aunt and drags her down the stairs and throws her across the border.’ You can’t ask for somebody’s vote while either insulting or threatening them and their neighbors.”