‘The wall is going to get built': Immigration hard-liner joins Trump's transition team

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been described by critics as an 'anti-immigrant zealot' and a favourite of 'far-right nativists'

Elise Viebeck
Friday 11 November 2016 14:01 GMT
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his office in Topeka
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his office in Topeka (Christopher Smith/The Washington Post)

One of the nation’s leading immigration hard-liners is working with Donald Trump’s presidential transition team.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State, told a Wichita-based television station he was consulting with Trump insiders on the future of US immigration policy.

“I’m a member of the immigration policy transition team, and there’s going to be a lot to do there, in part because Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama are diametrical opposites when it comes to immigration policy, so there will be a lot of changes,” Kobach told KWCH.

Rather than coming to Washington for meetings in the official transition offices, Kobach said he was conducting most of his work remotely. An email to Kobach seeking further detail was not returned.

“The work I do with the transition team is just conference calls and email, so it’s actually people all over the country who are experts in immigration policy and immigration law just working together and talking on the phone,” he said.

Kobach has been described by critics as an “anti-immigrant zealot” and a favourite of “far-right nativists.” A graduate of Harvard, Yale and Oxford, he has helped shepherd dozens of restrictive immigration measures at the state and local levels across the country and is known for his affiliation with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the group behind Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law.

While serving as an adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Kobach told The Washington Post he opposed any attempt to give undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. He wants those who are in the United States illegally to voluntarily deport themselves.

“We are constantly told that the only two options are massive roundups [of illegal immigrants] or an amnesty. But attrition through enforcement is the third way,” Kobach said in 2012. “Change the individual decisions of particular illegal aliens, and they will decide to leave the country.”

Kobach is also heavily involved in the movement to require photo identification - his preference is proof of citizenship - at the polls or to register to vote. (A federal appeals court struck down a proof-of-citizenship requirement in three states in September, a blow to Kobach, who had defended it in court.) He was also behind a lawsuit challenging President Obama’s executive action on immigration and an addition to the GOP platform that encouraged the teaching of the Bible in public schools.

There is one major idea he takes credit for when it comes to Trump - the notion that Mexico should pay for a border wall.

“There’s no question the wall is going to get built,” Kobach told KWCH. “The only question is how quickly will it get done and who pays for it.”

The Washington Post

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