Mary Sanchez

Immigration protesters were out of line to march on Kris Kobach’s home

Updated: 2013-06-19T05:09:55Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

Kris Kobach is a menace to the passage of reasonable and necessary changes to immigration law.

He has led small towns into debt, left to pay the costs of defending his anti-immigrant policies after courts found the laws unconstitutional.

He nudged the GOP presidential bid of Mitt Romney toward implosion when the candidate embraced Kobach’s belief that if you just make life miserable enough for undocumented immigrants, they will up and leave the country.

As Kansas secretary of state, Kobach’s dabblings in immigration have long been embarrassingly lassoed to Kansas.

But Kobach is also a father and a husband.

There is no condoning the actions of the nearly 300 people who stomped onto his private property Saturday for a protest.

More reasonable people attended the same immigration town hall meeting that preceded that action. Other leaders, many of them from the Kansas City area, pleaded with a group not to stop at Kobach’s Piper home as they returned to Wichita.

The Wichita-based Sunflower Community Action intended to confront Kobach and press him to back down from his views on immigration. He wasn’t home, thank goodness. Nor were his children, four little girls who most certainly do not deserve grief for their father’s views.

Marching on someone’s home is a crude tactic aligned with the thinking of Fred Phelps, of Operation Rescue, of any number of activist groups so inflamed with passion that they’re prone to lose sight of human dignity — both their own and that of the people they target.

Going to Kobach’s home was bullheaded, and those who encouraged the crowd that participated owe Kobach an apology.

The same group has tried to approach Kobach in more appropriate settings multiple times. The last instance was this spring in Washington, D.C., where Kobach testified before a congressional committee. He refused to talk to members of the Sunflower group, said executive director Sulma Arias.

Along with many others, Sunflower has tried to meet with Kobach in his Topeka office. But they have been turned away with the excuse that he does immigration work on his own time. They say Kobach’s home functions as his law office, which is how some are rationalizing going to his home.

Last year, the group used open records laws to request Kobach’s schedule. The intent was to see how much time he was spending on out-of-state immigration issues versus his Kansas duties. He is a busy man, appearing on numerous cable television shows, filing lawsuits and appearing at conferences and before congressional committees.

“If we don’t pass comprehensive immigration reform, we will end up with his (Kobach’s) types of laws across the states,” Arias said.

The Sunflower group, with many members from western Kansas, is also pressing U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran to support bipartisan reform measures currently being debated.

Clearly, Kobach has long used the title secretary of state as a platform of credibility to give more weight to his immigration views and as a shield from criticism.

It works.

The town hall gathering Saturday was held in rented space at Trinity Community Church. The newly elected Unified Government mayor, Mark Holland, is senior pastor at the United Methodist congregation, and he did some distancing when he found out about the protest, calling Kobach’s office to express his dismay and to stress that his church had nothing to do with it.

But Holland also clearly noted that he supports a legal way for some of the people who are undocumented now to eventually become legal residents and, someday, U.S. citizens.

Arias followed that path, coming to the United States as a 12-year-old from El Salvador, one of four sisters who fled that country’s civil war after their mother died. She said she became a legal resident during the last amnesty under the Reagan administration.

Regrettably, the protest is being used to paint the entire town hall gathering as a bunch of inconsiderate rabble-rousers — which they were not.

More than 700 people attended, representing a wide range of labor, faith-based and community groups. They represented the diverse coalitions that have formed around efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

By stooping to sophomoric tactics, the Sunflower group handed Kobach a bedazzled “victim” badge. He readily pinned it to his chest.

Within 24 hours, Kobach was upping the verbiage by spinning about the Second Amendment, insinuating that he might have had to defend his family from such a crowd.

Thankfully, the demonstrators were told to stay on the sidewalk, not to trample on the lawn. Only a few people approached his door and they quickly announced that no one was home. They left shoes, symbolic of families broken when some members are deported.

“We had nuns with us and pastors,” Arias said. “It was a symbolic gesture. We weren’t there to trash his home.”

The entire protest took less than 20 minutes, she said.

That’s 20 minutes too long.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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