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SPOTLIGHT
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Kobach's Kansas

Published on -11/18/2012, 3:34 PM

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The Kansas Secretary of State Office usually is low profile. Statutes guide the rather perfunctory roles it performs.

Not so with Kris Kobach, whose national and state moonlighting has made him the face of Kansas for outsiders.

One of two, in reality, as Gov. Sam Brownback's grander political ambitions keep him in the spotlight as well. With unreserved backing from the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the conservative agenda sits in the front seat of Brownback's Roadmap for Kansas. After disposing of any meaningful opposition from moderates of their own party, the governor can switch into overdrive.

And anybody who doesn't like the direction can leave.

"Americans can vote with their feet," Kobach said in a recent Kansas City Star article, "and choose a state that reflects their values and the way of life they'd like to enjoy."

Read: Our way or the highway.

"If a person wants to live in a San Francisco lifestyle, they can go there," Kobach said. "If they want to live a Kansas lifestyle, they can come here."

Trust us when we say this, Mr. Secretary: You are in no position to define the "Kansas lifestyle." Likewise, Kobach's call for self-deportation of "undesirables" from the Sunflower State will not be heeded. Too many Kansans might fall for many a wolf in sheep's clothing, but not a single resident of this proud state will be driven off by such bullying tactics.

Of course, Kobach should be getting accustomed to defeat. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry in America, tracks "mainstream media figures and politicians who have used their platforms to legitimize false propaganda about immigrants and other minorities and spread the kind of paranoid conspiracy theories on which militia groups thrive." Some of Kobach's milestones listed in their files include:

* While at Harvard University, he found a mentor in the late political science professor Samuel Huntington, who saw Latino immigrants as a scourge on this nation's culture. Kobach later wrote a thesis arguing investors should not divest their holdings in South Africa despite the present apartheid. The thesis ended up winning an award and becoming a book.

* As an Overland Park city councilman, he unsuccessfully fought efforts to allow a stroke rehabilitation center to operate -- citing parking and traffic concerns. When told his position would expose the city to lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Kobach said disabled citizens didn't need more than what other citizens have.

* While working at the Department of Justice, Kobach helped create the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which required Muslims and Middle Eastern visa holders to register with the government and be fingerprinted. Of the 93,000 individuals who were screened, zero convictions were obtained although thousands of men and boys were deported without due process. The program was suspended as it proved merely an exercise in racial and ethnic profiling of Arabs and Muslims that did nothing to bolster security.

* Still at the DOJ, Kobach helped reform the federal immigration court system, drastically reducing the number of judges. The resulting bottleneck had judges issuing one-line opinions on complex legal decisions. The appeals from immigrants claiming they hadn't had fair hearings clogged up the federal courts so much the Justice Department had to re-reform the system back to where it was.

* While teaching constitutional law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kobach began helping communities and states write tough anti-immigration laws. In addition to the highly controversial S.B. 1070 law in Arizona, nativist laws were passed in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas and Nebraska. The entities have spent millions of dollars defending them in court, and almost every judicial decision has gone against them. Additionally, each town or state has had race relations sour. Nationally, hate crimes against Latinos who comprise the majority of immigrants in America have escalated. The number of racist hate groups has grown 50 percent.

* As chair of the Kansas Republican Party for three years, he created a loyalty committee which punished moderates for associating with those across the aisle. That committee was frowned upon by no less than Sen. Pat Roberts.

* He successfully ran for secretary of state in 2010 on a platform of rampant voter fraud committed by illegal immigrants, despite the lack of evidence any fraud was taking place.

* Earlier this year, he sympathized with the birther movement to the point Obama's re-election bid this year resulted in Kobach once again demanding proof of citizenship before allowing the president's name to appear on the Kansas ballot.

It certainly isn't difficult to see what kind of Kansas Kobach desires. But Kansans deserve better. The wrong person is being asked to self-deport in this case.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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