Barbara Shelly

Barbara Shelly: Kris Kobach tosses out falsehoods and wild ideas while endorsing Donald Trump for president

Kansas Secretary of State endorsed Donald Trump. They share anti-immigrant views.
Kansas Secretary of State endorsed Donald Trump. They share anti-immigrant views. File Photo

It’s been awhile, but there was actually a time when I thought Kris Kobach’s anti-immigrant stance was an attention-getting ploy that he would moderate in order to have a credible political career.

I don’t think that anymore. And so I wasn’t surprised to see Kobach endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States. And here’s the most disturbing part: It is now possible to have a successful political career in the Republican party — although not a credible one — by making immigrant bashing your strongest talking point.

It certainly worked for Kobach in his two campaigns for Kansas secretary of state. In both elections, voters could have chosen qualified candidates who were interested in running the office competently. They chose Kobach, who uses his elected state office as a launching pad for legal work supporting efforts to dislodge and deport immigrants and their families.

Kobach’s news release announcing his support for Trump is more fear-baiting that wouldn’t pass a fact check, much less a morality check.

He contends that “our porous borders constitute a huge national security threat” that can’t be tamped down without a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico.

Zeroing in on a miniscule number of cases, Kobach says that “our refugee system has been abused by terrorists in the past and is likely to be abused by ISIS terrorists today.”

Anything is possible, of course, but the U.S. refugee system is chock full of safeguards. An ISIS operative would find it much more expeditious to travel to the U.S. on a European Union tourist visa than to enter the lengthy refugee screening process.

Kobach also griped that “there are too many Americans who are out of work because of illegal immigration.”

Well, not in Kansas. Gov. Sam Brownback is always bragging about the state’s unemployment rate, which at the last reading was below 4 percent. In fact Kansas business groups have encouraged a more immigrant-friendly policy to bring workers in to fill agriculture-related jobs.

Kobach also makes the questionable assertion that Trump is correct that the U.S. could compel the government of Mexico to hand over, oh, about $5 billion to help build a supposedly impenetrable wall to keep people from illegally crossing the border.

“As I have discussed with Mr. Trump,” his news release says (pause here to clear throat and look important), “the PATRIOT Act contains a provision that the United States can and should use as leverage with the Government of Mexico.”

His not-so-brilliant idea is that the U.S. should stop Mexicans who enter the U.S. illegally to work from sending money — known as remittances — home to their families.

“Mexico will then have to make a choice,” Kobach said. “Either make a single payment of $5 billion to $10 billion to the United States to pay for the wall, or lose most of the $23 billion in remittances that Mexico receives every year from its nationals working illegally in the United States.”

Well, that’s cold. Immigrants leave their families and come to America to live in isolation and work hard, gritty jobs because they don’t have a choice. They have children and parents and spouses at home who need to eat.

Kobach doesn’t care about them; he’s demonstrated that many times over the years. But now he’s proven that he doesn’t care about diplomacy, either. And neither, clearly does Trump.

Kobach’s endorsement of Trump drew a surprising amount of negative reaction on his Facebook page, with many people who claim to have voted for the secretary of state telling him he’d gone too far. Maybe that says something about Kansas, or maybe it’s just random. Either way, it seems to be a glimmer of sanity in a lengthening tunnel of craziness.