Editorials

A habit Kris Kobach just can’t quit — unsuccessfully chasing undocumented immigrants

Even as Kris Kobach was running — sort of — his infamously disorganized and ultimately unsuccessful Kansas gubernatorial campaign in late 2017, he was as usual busy elsewhere, unsuccessfully chasing undocumented immigrants.

The latest update of “Where in the World is Kris Kobach?” who is these days running for the U.S. Senate, shows the then-Kansas secretary of state spending his time trying to use the city ordinance he helped write for Fremont, Nebraska, to turn hundreds of names over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The local law, which prohibits landlords from renting to the undocumented, only survived legal challenges to its constitutionality based on testimony that it would not be used to turn immigrants over to ICE.

It’s been impossible to enforce, and has cost the town plenty in both legal fees and reputation. But its author still loves it, and he is still being paid by the town.

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According to The Star’s reporting on this whole misbegotten, thoroughly Kobachian adventure, ICE did not act on his 2017 email to its acting director, Thomas Homan, whom Kobach helpfully supplied with a list of 289 people who had applied for an occupancy license in Fremont.

Kobach asked ICE to investigate them all. “If you could assign someone to determine the immigration status of each alien and add that to the attached word file, that would be great,” he wrote.

Homan answered, The Star reported, by warning against drawing any conclusions about a person’s immigration status based on an occupancy license. Nothing came of Kobach’s effort, and it could theoretically reopen the question of the constitutionality of the law.

One of the many nonsensical aspects of Kobach’s obsession is that the meatpacking plants near Fremont, Nebraska, just as those in western Kansas, depend on the labor of the immigrants he’s built his career on demonizing.

“Kris Kobach has made a career of scaremongering around undocumented immigrants voting and using public services, and has driven public policy in ways that do not match the actual evidence,” Austin Evers, executive director of the ethics watchdog nonprofit American Oversight. “In this case, he used the power of government to compile a list of individuals and, if he had his way, to have ICE just sort of rummage through them.”

That will appeal to some Kansas voters. Though as sloppy as Kobach is single-minded, many Kansas Republicans nevertheless admire his approach.

Even without help from his party, he could still win next year’s U.S. Senate race. And if he does prevail, Kobach could give Kansas the same reputation for bigotry that some in Fremont, Nebraska, feel he’s foisted on them.

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