Kris Kobach Meets Trump With His Immigration Plan in Hand

by | November 22, 2016 AT 2:00 PM

By Bryan Lowry, Curtis Tate and Lindsay Wise

When Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach met with President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday, he was carrying a copy of a plan for the Department of Homeland Security.

The DHS oversees border security and immigration, issues on which Kobach advised Trump throughout the campaign.

There had been speculation that Kobach might be under consideration to head the department in the lead-up to his meeting with Trump, and photographic evidence appears to confirm that.

When Trump greeted Kobach at his clubhouse door in Bedminster, N.J., Kobach carried a document with the headings "Department of Homeland Security" and "Kobach Strategic Plan for the Next 365 Days."

The details of the document were first reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal, which zoomed in on a photograph taken by The Associated Press.

A McClatchy analysis of the photograph reveals that Kobach's plan includes reintroducing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System so that "All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked."

Kobach had previously told Reuters about this idea, prompting accusations that Trump planned to create a Muslim registry.

Kobach's plan includes the use of "extreme vetting" for immigrants from countries that are considered high risk, asking them whether they support "shariah law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States Constitution." Kobach would also reduce the number of refugees from Syria to zero.

Bill Stock, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said Kobach was committed to restricting immigration from an ideological perspective and using whatever tools he had. Stock said if Kobach brought that push to the Department of Homeland Security he would be likely to find himself in court, much as he did with the immigration and voter ID laws he championed at the state and local level.

"The policies that he proposes, in many instances, would be subjected to challenge from those who believe in due process and fairness," Stock said.

Lena Arkawi, campaign manager for the American Relief Coalition for Syria, said Kobach's Syria plan would be "deeply immoral," with Syrians facing bombings, terrorist attacks and shortages of food and medical care.

"They have no choice but to leave in the face of certain death," she said in a statement. "We implore President-elect Trump to reject inhumane proposals to ban refugees and instead embrace the proud American tradition of granting refuge to the world's most vulnerable people."

Naureen Shah, the director of the security and human rights program for Amnesty International USA, called Kobach's plan an "incredibly chilling set of proposals that are reminiscent of the kinds of religiously based discrimination and targeting of minorities that we've criticized governments and armed groups around the world for."

"It is horrifying to think that the U.S. government is poised to go down the road of targeting people based on their nonviolent beliefs," Shah said. "And I also question the wisdom of policies that are sure to, frankly, scare the hell out of people in this country who are law-abiding and would report crimes if they saw them taking place."

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which was established in 2002 under President George W. Bush, was indefinitely suspended by the Obama administration in 2011. Shah said the program was dismantled because the DHS considered it ineffective and counterproductive to its anti-terror efforts.

She drew a distinction between the program under Bush and its potential re-establishment under Trump. "It's preceded by a campaign where the president-elect and his surrogates specifically talked about Muslims and religion as a basis for policies," she said.

The document also includes what appears to be a plan to deport a "record number of criminal aliens in the first year" and the construction of a wall along the southern border.

Kobach, who could not be reached by phone Monday, has been an outspoken supporter of Trump's idea to construct a border wall, helping to add it to the Republican Party's national platform.

Trump's transition team said in a statement Sunday night that the president-elect and Kobach had discussed "border security, international terrorism and reforming federal bureaucracy."

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is poised to become the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, told McClatchy she hoped Kobach would not be nominated for a post at the DHS.

"I've made my opinion of Kris Kobach very clear," McCaskill, a former prosecutor, said Monday.

McCaskill previously told McClatchy that the idea of Kobach becoming attorney general _ another position for which he was rumored to be under consideration _ "is frightening to those of us who've watched him in his career."

"I know too much about Kris Kobach," McCaskill said. "There's no way I could ever support him."

She said Kobach had "fashioned some of the most unconstitutional immigration laws around the country, most of which have been thrown out by the courts."

"This is a perfect role for him," said Kelly Arnold, the state chairman of the Kansas Republican Party.

Arnold called Kobach a "border security hawk" who could "make sure that what Donald Trump campaigned on is implemented" if he is tapped to lead the DHS or to serve the administration in another capacity.

Speaking of Kobach and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, a national security hard-liner whom Trump nominated to become CIA director, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback called both "very talented" and "cutting-edge."

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a hard-line group that advocates for stricter immigration restrictions, also praised Kobach. He has done extensive legal work for the federation's offshoot, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. (The federation has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its views on immigration. It strongly disputes that characterization.)

"He certainly has a commanding knowledge of the whole immigration issue," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the federation. "He has come down very clearly as someone who champions the interests of the American public as the primary stakeholders in immigration policy, and he has worked with a lot of local governments around the country to provide them with the means by which they can protect their own community interests when the federal government is failing to protect those interests."

Kobach served under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft at the Justice Department in the days immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Ashcroft tasked him with researching loopholes in the immigration system.

Kobach also helped craft a controversial Arizona law, SB 1070, which requires law enforcement agents to demand to see the immigration papers of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.

The Homeland Security document appears to include a reference to voter rolls, but the specific proposal is obscured by Kobach's hand.

He has championed stricter voting laws during his tenure as Kansas secretary of state.

The state adopted a requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship, such as birth certificates or passports, when they register. Kobach has contended that the policy prevents noncitizens from voting, but his critics say it makes it tougher for actual citizens to vote.

"I think any proposal that Kris Kobach makes about voting rights is one that we should be concerned about, because he has a record of working to undermine the right to vote," said Micah Kubic, the executive director of the Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Everything that he's advanced so far has been designed to make it harder for eligible citizens to vote."

(Lowry, of The Wichita Eagle, reported from Topeka, Kan.)

(c)2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau