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Kris Kobach is one of the most influential people you’d probably never heard of, especially on immigration. On paper, he’s the Kansas Secretary of State, contender for the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial election, and Vice Chair of Donald Trump’s Commission on Election “Integrity”. But behind the scenes, he’s been the architect of anti-immigrant state and city laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 and a key pusher of laws that restrict voting rights.
Wherever there is news about anti-immigrant laws or hardliners, you can find trace amounts of Kris Kobach’s influence not far behind.
This week, “America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio became a convicted criminal, after a judge ruled that he was guilty of criminal contempt of court. Arpaio may face up to six months in jail because he refused to stop racial profiling Latino drivers in Arizona — something Kris Kobach told him he could do. Here’s the report from a June New York Times Magazine profile on Kobach, describing how Kobach and Arpaio conspired together to detain and deport as many of Arizona’s immigrants as possible, other laws be damned:
At the Justice Department, Kobach had promoted an effort to deputize local police departments with immigration-enforcement authority from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In 2007, Arpaio received such a deputization, and his office within two years had arrested 33,000 undocumented immigrants, many of them in highly publicized “crime suppression” sweeps.
In 2009, after Barack Obama took office, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded Arpaio’s immigration-enforcement powers. That same year, the Justice Department began an investigation into Arpaio’s “discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures.” Not long after that, Arpaio hired Kobach to train all of his deputies on how to comply with federal immigration law. “I really want to applaud what Maricopa County is doing,” Kobach said in a video for the trainings, calling the county a model for the nation. Despite the federal government’s jurisdiction over immigration, Kobach told Arpaio’s deputies they had “inherent authority” to enforce immigration laws, based on a 2002 memo Kobach had requested from the Justice Department. He listed several of the dozens of federal crimes undocumented immigrants could be arrested for, including “failure to carry an alien registration card” and “failure to notify the federal government of a change of address.”
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), another anti-immigrant hardliner and early supporter of Trump, is said to be planning to challenge Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in 2018. Barletta is the former mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which saw an influx of Hispanic immigrants between 2000 to 2010, leading xenophobes like Barletta to freak out. Determined to write a law that would drive the immigrants out, Barletta turned to — Kris Kobach, whom the city paid $250,000 to write an anti-immigrant ordinance that was eventually struck down by the courts:
A federal judge eventually ruled that the law was illegal because it usurped the federal government’s power and would affect not just undocumented immigrants but “those who look or act as if they are foreign.” Other courts upheld that ruling over eight years…
In 2015, a federal judge ordered Hazleton to pay $1.4 million to the lawyers who had fought the town.
The city, with a budget of $9 million, took out a bank loan and cut a check to the ACLU, said Joseph Yannuzzi, the mayor who succeeded Barletta.
“With that money,” Yannuzzi said, “we could have hired 12 police officers.”
Joe Arpaio and Lou Barletta’s associations with Kris Kobach didn’t exactly end well. Let’s see how it works out for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. GIven Kobach’s track record, expect more of the same.