Kris Kobach

IRLI counsel

The chief legal mind in the anti-immigrant movement, Kobach has used his Ivy League education to draft some of the harshest policies on the books at the federal and local level targeting immigrants and Muslims. Most of these were enacted while he served as of counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). Kobach is one of the primary architects behind legal strategies attacking DACA recipients, including Crane v. Napolitano, U.S. v. Texas, and harsh attrition through enforcement policies that have devastated localities and states such as Farmers Branch, Texas and Arizona. Further, Kobach has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees defending these harsh immigration laws that he drafts, leaving a plethora of towns with giant fiscal burdens, after legal challenges to the legislation Kobach proposed. 

  • Former Kansas Secretary of State and voting rights restrictionist, Kris Kobach served as counsel to IRLI and the vice-chair of President Trump’s now folded Commission on Election Integrity. He suffered an embarrassing defeat in the 2018 Kansas Gubernatorial race and is a paid columnist for Breitbart. He has co-authored some of the United States’s most draconian and destructive anti-immigrant lawsuits and legislation, and is one of the chief architects of the legal attacks on DACA.
  • Kobach often gets into legal trouble. He frequently loses in court, has violated campaign finance laws and has been fined as a result. His tenure as Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was unceremoniously cut short. Numerous state officials, including Republicans, criticized the commission and its demands, and in January 2018 the Trump Administration dissolved the commission citing “endless legal battles.” 
  • In June 2017 Kobach was fined $1,000 and held in contempt of court for misleading the court and opposing counsel during a lawsuit involving federal voting laws. In U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara’s decision he wrote, “The court agrees that defendant’s deceptive conduct and lack of candor warrant the imposition of sanctions.” 
  • In addition to Kobach’s work for anti-immigrant groups founded by eugenicist John Tanton, he has associated with white nationalists.
  • Not only did Kobach reportedly employ white nationalists on his 2018 Kansas Gubernatorial campaign, he accepted campaign contributions from extremists, including John Tanton’s political action committee U.S. Immigration Reform PAC, former DHS official Ian Smith, who resigned after emails revealed his relationships with white supremacists, and VDARE writer Paul Nachman. In 2016, VDARE founder Peter Brimelow endorsed Kobach for Vice President, and Marcus Epstein, who runs in white nationalist circles, attended a Kobach 2017 Gubernatorial fundraiser in Washington, D.C.
  • Kobach, who has spoken at the Tanton founded The Social Contract Press’s annual Writers’ Workshop, has maligned immigrants and minorities, including on his discontinued radio show.
  • According to Axios, leaked vetting documents for the Trump transition team included “white supremacy” as a vulnerability for Kobach, who was at the time in the running for DHS Secretary. The document cited “accusations from past political opponents that he had ties to white supremacist groups.”
  • Kobach worked for over a decade at IRLI alongside figures such as Ian Smith, Dale Wilcox and John Miano. Later, he teamed up with other anti-immigrant individuals such as Steve Bannon and former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo to advise a group called We Build The Wall, Inc., dedicated to privately funding a border wall. 

Anti-immigrant Views

  • Kobach entertained the possibility that Latinx immigrants could conduct “ethnic cleansing” in the U.S. by outnumbering the current white majority, due to what Kobach described as having “a president who disregards the law when it suits his interests.” Kobach continued, “So, while I normally would answer that by saying, ‘Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never happen in America,’ I wonder what could happen. I still don’t think it’s going to happen in America, but I have to admit, things are strange and they are happening.”
  • On the Gold Star Khan Family, Kobach stated: “It is maddening to be lectured about our Constitution and about what American law should be by aliens in the United States.”
  • Kobach has advocated for the dismantling of the 14th Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship: “Any justice who sought to come to the conclusion that the Constitution requires citizenship for the children of illegal aliens would have to explain what the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ mean, and that’s a very difficult task for them to do.”
  • Kobach helped create the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a Muslim registry program launched under the Bush Administration and later disbanded. During the 2016 Presidential transition Kobach told Reuters that he, along with a transition team working group, were considering recommending a reinstatement of the program. 
  • In 2017 Kobach told a group of Republicans gathered at state convention that he had been advising President Trump on methods to overcome federal court rulings blocking the administration’s first executive order related to Muslim Ban.
  • Kobach was critical of the Trump Administration’s decision to allow a small transition period for the hundreds of thousands of TPS holders who have lived in the U.S. for decades. In a November 2017 interview for Breitbart, Kobach opined, “We expected the Trump Administration to return sanity to the TPS program. But, sadly, this recent decision continues the Obama administration’s abuse of the law.”

Anti-immigrant Activity

  • In his role as an advisor to the Trump campaign and the transition team Kobach advised on policies related to a wall along the Southern border, ending DACA and reinstating the NSEERS tracking system. Some of Kobach’s policy recommendations were captured in a photo of a memo he carried into a meeting with Trump, and later confirmed in deposition transcripts. 
  • As part of ongoing litigation over the Trump Administration’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recalled Steve Bannon asking the Secretary if he would be willing to speak to Kobach about ideas on a possible citizenship question on the decennial census. Bannon connected the two men.
  • Kobach, who reportedly lost out on an immigration czar post in the Trump Administration, told the Washington Times that he was actually the one to turn down the position because the job didn’t carry enough weight, and that he continued to “meet regularly with the president to discuss immigration issues.”
  • In his role at IRLI, Kobach wrote legislation and launched lawsuits in Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Missouri, Alabama, and Arizona. Much of this legislation, including Arizona’s S.B 1070, or the “Show Me Your Papers” Law, introduced by Russell Pearce after consultation with Kobach, and signed into law by then-Governor Jan Brewer, has been struck down in court as unconstitutional.
  • In 2006, Kobach helped FAIR’s advisory board member former Rep. Lou Barletta, then the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, develop his cruel and unsuccessful anti-immigrant policies, which included fining landlords who rented to undocumented immigrants.
  • Former Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio once hired Kobach to train his law enforcement officers on immigration issues. 
  • Kobach collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in the form of legal fees to defend his draconian laws, even as they bankrupt local economies, crush small businesses, tear apart communities, and cost taxpayers millions.
  • According to the Kansas City Star Kobach “earned more than $800,000 for his immigration work, paid by both towns and an advocacy group, over 13 years.” Below are just a few examples of the costs to cities and states of the policies Kris Kobach worked on:
    • Hazleton, PA, July 13, 2006 – Hazleton took on debt to pay $1.4 million in legal fees and eventually had to file for a state bailout. Former Congressman Lou Barletta worked with Kobach on this legislation while he was mayor of Hazleton.
    • Farmers Branch, TX, 2006 – Farmer’s Branch paid over $7 million in legal fees. Then-Mayor Bob Phelps has since called Kobach’s pitch “a sham,” Phelps stated “It was just a sad situation that we had to go through, and everybody now regrets it.”
    • AZ SB1070, 2010 – According to the Center for American Progress Arizona lost an estimated “$253 million in economic output, $9.4 million in tax revenues, and 2,761 jobs.”
    • AL HB 56, 2011 – Researchers estimated that HB 56 could cost the state nearly $11 billion in lost economic output and as much as $264.5 million in tax revenue.
  • IRLI’s former counsel Kris Kobach helped initiate and draft anti-immigrant lawsuits like Crane v. Napolitano, the suit that pitted ICE against President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and set the stage for United States v. Texas.
  • Crane v. Napolitano came as a response DACA and was filed on August 23, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, on behalf of 10 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council union, served as lead plaintiff and spokesperson for the ICE agents involved in the case.
  • That same day, NumbersUSA announced that it would financially support the legal effort against DACA. In a blog post that reads more as a fundraising appeal than an announcement, NumbersUSA President Roy Beck said the ICE agents’ legal team would be “funded entirely by NumbersUSA member contributions.” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced his state would join Kobach and NumbersUSA’s lawsuit on October 10, 2012.
  • Anti-immigrant leaders once again attempted to use individual states as plaintiffs against former President Obama’s deportation relief programs, as Kobach attempted with Mississippi in Crane, in Texas v. U.S.
  • Just two days after President Obama’s announcement on DAPA and an expansion of the DACA program, The Washington Post reported that then-IRLI lawyer Kris Kobach had stated at a community forum that he had “already begun drafting a suit as the lead attorney, with plans to file it in early December,” and that “Texas is interested in being a plaintiff.” On December 3, 2014, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit challenging DAPA and DACA+. From there, the newly elected Attorney General, Ken Paxton, carried out the lawsuit through the U.S. Supreme Court, who agreed to hear the case, but remained divided and gave no decision on the case in a 4-4 tie. 
  • In July 2017 Kobach praised a Texas led strategy which threatened to sue the Trump Administration if they failed to end DACA: “The cases are nearly identical. It’s a clear winner for the states, and I’m very happy Texas has sent this letter.”
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