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Who’s Behind the Citizenship Controversy? Who Else: Kris Kobach

 

Frank Sharry: “If it involves suppressing the vote, dehumanizing immigrants and violating the Constitution, Kris Kobach can’t be far behind”

Yesterday, the Kansas City Star reported that none other than Kris Kobach is taking credit for the addition of a “citizenship question” to the census:

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach encouraged President Donald Trump to add a question about citizenship status to the U.S. Census during the early weeks of Trump’s presidency.

More than a year later, Trump’s administration has moved to enact that exact policy for the 2020 census.

“I won’t go into exact detail, but I raised the issue with the president shortly after he was inaugurated,” Kobach said Tuesday.

No surprise, really. Treating immigrants as the invisible and dehumanized other is what nativists like Kris Kobach are all about. The problem for the GOP enablers of Kobach and his ilk is this: Kobach destroys nearly everything he touches.

Just recently, ACLU hauled Kobach into court to expose his voter suppression efforts. Check out his Mother Jones piece, entitled “Kris Kobach Just Got Humiliated in Federal Court” and sub-titled: The Kansas secretary of state wanted to prove his claims of widespread voter fraud. Instead, he was repeatedly embarrassed –“over and over, the claims of voter fraud offered by Kobach and his witnesses collapsed under scrutiny.”

According to a report published by the Center for American Progress in 2011, Kobach’s work to get conservative jurisdictions to enact anti-immigrant legislation in the past decade has been costly for the jurisdictions and profitable for Kobach. ThinkProgress reports:

  • Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the leader of the court fights for local immigration enforcement, is in the tank for at least $2.8 million with some estimates totaling $5 million as it defends its ordinance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Riverside, New Jersey suffered a local economic downturn before the city rescinded its anti-immigrant ordinance and welcomed the return of immigrants.
  • Farmers Branch, Texas, has spent nearly $4 million in legal fees and is expected to spend at least $5 million to defend its anti-immigration statute with no end in sight.
  • Prince William County, Virginia dramatically scaled back a tough immigration statute after realizing the original version would cost millions to enforce and defend in court.
  • Fremont, Nebraska, increased the city’s property tax to help pay the legal fees for its anti-immigration ordinance which it intends to defend.
  • The report also specifically highlights one figure who has been profiting off of these cities’ woes: Kris Kobach. The activist lawyer and newly elected Kansas Secretary of State has had his hand in just about every piece of anti-immigrant legislation proposed in the nation over the past several years. In the meantime, he has “run up an estimated $6.6 million in fees for his efforts.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

If it involves suppressing the vote, dehumanizing immigrants and violating the Constitution, Kris Kobach can’t be far behind.

Kobach’s role in the controversy over adding the citizenship question to the census should come as no surprise. Adding the citizenship question advances three of his pet causes: sow fear among immigrant families; treat immigrants as if they are less than fully human; and put the thumb on the scale of democracy in order to undermine the political power of diverse communities. These aren’t bugs, but features. These are the intended consequences of adding the citizenship question to the census.

Fortunately for defenders of democracy and of immigrants, almost everything Kobach touches is an abject failure. As the ThinkProgress piece cited above makes clear, Kobach is a huckster who peddles his nativism for profit while those he dupes get stuck with the bill. His voter suppression drive is blowing up in his face in court as we speak. And the post-election voting commission appointed by Trump to concoct ‘evidence’ for his spurious claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted in the 2016 election, was headed by Kris Kobach. No wonder it failed so spectacularly that had to be disbanded.

Given the intense backlash and serious legal challenges to the latest Kobach-influenced initiative, we expect this foray ends up being another abject failure. For the sake of our democracy, it must.