By Edward M. Eveld

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Monday endorsed Donald Trump for president -- and he backed Trump's plan to force Mexico to pay for a border wall.

Kobach, a conservative Republican, lauded Trump's strong stand against illegal immigration, a cause Kobach has championed for years.

"On that issue, Mr. Trump stands head and shoulders above the other candidates," Kobach said in his written endorsement. "Now, more than ever, America needs Mr. Trump's aggressive approach to the problem of illegal immigration."

In a telephone interview with The Star , Kobach said he disagreed with critics of the billionaire businessman, who leads the Republican field going into the Super Tuesday primaries. Kansas holds its presidential caucuses Saturday.

About white supremacist David Duke's endorsement of Trump and Trump's response to it, Kobach said that nothing in Trump's remarks indicated "any sort of agreement with the KKK," calling such a conclusion "outrageous." Kobach said Trump's lack of government experience can be seen as a positive.

"The way he would operate as president is he would surround himself with a talented, conservative team," Kobach said. "That's exactly what (Ronald) Reagan did."

Kobach said he appreciates Trump's boldness. And at least the harsh rhetoric against opponents comes directly from him rather than third parties, he said. Many politicians unleash negative ads for that purpose, he said.

"Trump is actually doing it himself, and in some ways that's more honest than having a super PAC do your insulting for you," Kobach said.

Kobach is the first major elected official in Kansas to endorse Trump. Sam Brownback has endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, although the governor has said he would vote for Trump if he wins the Republican nomination.

Kobach, who has advocated nationally for laws curbing to curb illegal immigration, said that Trump is correct that the United States can compel Mexico to pay for construction of a wall between the countries to keep out illegal immigrants.

"We have the ability to shut down the flow of remittances to Mexico from illegal aliens working in the United States," he said. "Mexico will then have to make a choice: 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."

A lawyer, Kobach has represented U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in lawsuits against the Obama administration. In 2001-2003, he served as U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's chief adviser on immigration law and border security.

(c)2016 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)