In a recent opinion piece, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach defended his track record as a national proponent of anti-immigrant laws. He asserted that the anti-immigrant laws hes authored and espoused across the country have done remarkably well in court. A review of these cases shows otherwise. Indeed, just last week, his record suffered a serious blow when the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and a unanimous three-judge panel of the Third Circuit struck down anti-immigrant ordinances he authored in Farmers Branch, Texas and Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Although a divided Eighth Circuit panel recently upheld another of these ordinances in Fremont, Neb., the clear trend is away from his anti-immigrant approach.
By Gary Brunk
Special to The Star
In his opinion piece, he claimed a score of 2 wins 0 losses 2 draws, appearing essentially undefeated. Even apart from the Farmers Branch and Hazleton decisions, the anti-immigrant policies he promotes have been litigated many times, far more than the four court cases he discusses. For example, he conveniently excludes several failed lawsuits he brought challenging laws that promote immigrant integration, such as Kansas law allowing in-state college tuition for all Kansas high school graduates. After a federal appeals court dismissed his lawsuit here, he filed a similar one against Californias in-state tuition law, which the California Supreme Court rejected unanimously. He raises the issue year after year in the Legislature and every time, he scores a loss. This, in the Republican controlled Legislature in his home state.
For the cases he doesnt ignore, he obscures the results. For example, he calls the Supreme Court decision overturning provisions of SB 1070, Arizonas infamous anti-immigrant law the hallmark of his career a draw even though the Court struck down three of the four sections of the law that it reviewed.
Mr. Kobach would have us believe that the single provision the court allowed was the only one that mattered. In the SB 1070 case, the Supreme Court struck down warrantless arrests of undocumented individuals, the criminalization under state law of work by the undocumented and criminal punishments for immigrants who fail to carry immigration papers at all times. And, the court limited the scope of the one provision it permitted, known as show me your papers, making it clear that the police cannot detain individuals just to inquire about immigration status. In other words, much of the anti-immigrant law that put Arizona in the national spotlight has now been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Similarly, Mr. Kobach categorized the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Alabamas HB 56 as a draw even though it too rebuked his fundamental approach. The court said, We are convinced that Alabama has crafted a calculated policy of expulsion, seeking to make the lives of unlawfully present aliens so difficult as to force them to retreat from the state. This is Mr. Kobachs underlying theory of driving the undocumented to self-deport, which the court determined is an unconstitutional, thinly veiled attempt to regulate immigration a power held solely by the federal government.
Mr. Kobachs faulty legal reasoning has brought only harm to communities that have relied on it. Yet he repeatedly asks Kansans to trust his expert legal opinion on controversial matters, whether its defending the voter identification law he authored, or advocating for more restrictive laws against immigrants. Kansans deserve better. We should trust our own instincts instead, supporting common sense immigration reform and integrating immigrants through sound policy.
Gary Brunk is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri.