Kobach Tells Civil Rights Commission He’d Never Help a Known Bigot
Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and the architect of harsh, anti-immigrant laws in several states and cities, made a special trip to Hatewatch’s home state last week to testify in Birmingham before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The statutes pushed by Kobach - among them Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s even more draconian HB 56 - were devised to make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they give up and “self-deport.” A lawyer with degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale, he began crafting anti-immigrant policy while working in John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice. In 2004, he was hired as senior counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), where he devised immigration legislation that would later serve as the basis of the laws in Arizona and Alabama. (IRLI is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant hate group that yearns for a return to the days when immigration policy favored light-skinned northern Europeans over all others.)
These days, Kobach serves as secretary of state of Kansas, where he has pushed worryingly restrictive voter ID laws and continued to be active in immigration restriction efforts across the country. On Friday, he appeared in Birmingham as a witness at a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights field briefing on the civil rights impact of the state immigration laws he drafted and pushed.
Protesters were ready. At one point during his testimony, five women stood up to reveal T-shirts that spelled out “Stop Hate.” They were followed by a series of demonstrators carrying banners reading “Undocumented,” who interrupted Kobach, shouting over him in Spanish and English until police arrived to escort them peacefully from the room.
During the question-and-answer portion of the testimony, Commission Chairman Marty Castro asked if Kobach was aware of racist statements made by Russell Pearce, the Arizona legislator who worked with Kobach to push through SB 1070.
Absolutely not, Kobach said. “Nothing has hurt me more in this whole debate than when people start pointing at someone and saying that you’re doing this because you’re a racist, you’re a nativist. … It hurts me because I’m not, and that’s false witness against me,” he said. “If I had any indication that a state legislator who was coming to me for assistance had any racially biased motive, any ethnically biased motive, I would refuse to assist him or her.”
If that’s true, Kobach - who bragged to the commission about being a “careful attorney” - must have somehow missed the warnings, issued for years by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations, about Pearce’s bigotry. The former Arizona legislator once sent supporters an article from the neo-Nazi National Alliance website. Worse, he maintained a close friendship with J.T. Ready for more than a year after the latter was exposed as a prominent member of the National Socialist Movement, the country’s largest neo-Nazi group. Ready killed himself in May, but not before fatally shooting his girlfriend, her daughter, and the daughter’s boyfriend and 15-month-old baby girl.