Profiles of 20 Nativist Leaders
Kris Kobach, 41
Kansas City, Mo.
The man behind many of the deeply flawed anti-illegal immigrant laws passed recently is Kris Kobach, the "national expert on constitutional law" who works for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). IRLI is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), recently listed as a nativist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. At IRLI, Kobach has been a prime mover behind ordinances in Farmer's Branch, Texas, and Hazelton, Pa., among other places, that seek to punish those who aid and abet "illegal aliens."
The laws have not done well. The Hazelton ordinance, crafted by Kobach and fellow IRLI attorney Michael Hethmon, was struck down last year by a federal judge who also charged the city for all legal fees. "Everything he does has been a failure," Mira Mdivani, a Kansas immigration lawyer, told The Pitch in January 2007.
Before joining IRLI, Kobach served as U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's top immigration adviser, moving on to take charge of Department of Justice efforts to tighten border security shortly after the 9/11 attacks. There, he developed a program — the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System — that called for close monitoring of men from Arab and Muslim nations, even legal U.S. residents. The program collapsed due to complaints of racial profiling and discrimination.
In 2004, Kobach ran for Congress. (At the same time, he worked on a FAIR lawsuit against a Kansas law granting in-state tuition rates to the children of undocumented immigrants. The suit was dismissed.) Kobach lost by 11 percentage points after his opponent accused him of ties to white supremacists.
Kobach also has taught constitutional and immigration law since 2003 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, but has come under attack there for anti-immigrant bias. In January 2007, for instance, fliers appeared on campus accusing Kobach of inflating his credentials and crafting bad law. In the classroom, he uses as a text a controversial book by political science professor Samuel Huntington that argues that today's immigrants will "divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, two languages."
Kobach, who in 2007 became chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, is far-right Christian fundamentalist. During his 2004 campaign, he accused his opponent of associating with groups supporting "homosexual pedophilia." He was referring to the Human Rights Campaign, a mainstream gay rights organization that has never come remotely close to endorsing pedophilia.