What’s the Matter with Working for Kansas, Kris?

Anti-immigrant activist Kris Kobach draws a paycheck as the duly elected secretary of state in Kansas. But he sure spends a lot of time meddling in the business of other states.

Kansans Count, a coalition of civil and voting rights groups, recently obtained copies of Kobach’s calendars, schedules and phone records through an open records request. The group found that, since he took office in January 2011, Kobach has participated in 108 media appearances with out-of-state media outlets – most of which had to do with immigration, not Kansas.

The group said the study was prompted by Kobach’s failure to do the work necessary to implement the strict voter ID law he pushed.

The findings were no surprise to those who follow Kobach’s activism: He’s spending his time in other states defending anti-immigrant laws that he has promoted.

“What we found in our findings with Mr. Kobach’s calendar is that he is not making our elections a priority,” Louis Goseland, coordinator for KanVote. “Instead, what he’s made a priority is establishing his political identity as a man who is tough on immigration. Well, immigration is not his responsibility. His responsibility is to make sure that our elections run smoothly, safely and fairly and that the people of Kansas can access the polls and so far, he’s failing to do that job.”

Goseland was referring to Kobach’s role as the principal author of punishing anti-immigrant legislation that has proliferated at the state and local level. In addition to being Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach is “of counsel” for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists FAIR as a hate group because it has done more to inject fear and bigotry into the national immigration debate than any other organization (For more on FAIR’s demonizing anti-Latino propaganda and its ties to hate groups, read here).

Kobach has long defended his immigration work as taking place during his spare time. He told Topeka TV station WIBW that media questions about immigration pop up during interviews about Kansas’ voting policies and a number of other issues. Kobach regularly pleads ignorance about FAIR’s sordid history.

Kobach authored Arizona’s punishing SB 1070, which is currently on its way to a Supreme Court hearing in April. He has also worked on local laws in several other communities, including Hazelton, Pa., and Farmers Branch, Texas. In general, Kobach’s efforts have been financially damaging, draining communities of resources to pay for legal battles, where Kobach is often the lead lawyer. One community, faced with skyrocketing legal costs, had to raise property taxes; another was forced to cut personnel and special events and even outsource its library. Many of the communities Kobach has been involved in have also seen increased racial strife and other negative effects. Latinos reported being threatened, shot at, subjected to racial taunts and more.

If only Kobach could focus on his secretary of state duties in Kansas and leave the rest of us alone. In his “spare time,” he’s done a number on my home state of Alabama. As the author of HB 56, which Kobach reportedly wrote while sitting in a duck blind, he has wreaked havoc in my state. The punishing anti-immigrant law has led to major civil right violations for residents of Alabama, examples of which can be found here. The financial pain will be immense, too.

All of this makes me wonder, what’s so wrong with Kobach working for the people who elected him, meaning the people of Kansas? We certainly don’t need any more of him here in Alabama. And I bet that feeling is widely shared in other states that are now suffering after adopting his misguided legislative ideas.