A close-up from a photo of President-elect Donald Trump greeting Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse on Sunday Carolyn Kaster Associated Press
A close-up from a photo of President-elect Donald Trump greeting Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse on Sunday Carolyn Kaster Associated Press

Elections

Trump-Kobach photo shows Homeland Security plans

By Bryan Lowry, Curtis Tate and Lindsay Wise

blowry@wichitaeagle.com

November 21, 2016 01:46 PM

UPDATED November 22, 2016 06:56 AM

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 Department of Homeland Security 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 lead 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, New Jersey, Kobach carried a document with the headings “Department of Homeland Security” and “Kobach Strategic Plan for the Next 365 Days.”

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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 shows that Kobach’s plan includes reintroducing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System so that “All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked.”

A McClatchy analysis of the photograph shows 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 also includes the use of “extreme vetting” for immigrants from countries considered high risk, asking them if they support “Sharia 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, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said Kobach is committed to restricting immigration from an ideological perspective and using whatever tools he has. Stock said if he brings that push to the Department of Homeland Security, he’s likely to find himself in court, much like 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.

Kobach could not be reached by phone Monday. But Kelly Arnold, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, said Department of Homeland Security would be “a perfect role for him.”

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 DHS or serve the administration in another capacity.

‘Deeply immoral’

Among those who voiced concern were Lena Arkawi, campaign manager for the American Relief Coalition for Syria. She 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 right 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 non-violent 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 NSEERS program, 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 Department of Homeland Security considered it ineffective and counterproductive to its anti-terror efforts.

She drew a distinction between the program under Bush and its potential reestablishment 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.

Border security

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.

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 has been an outspoken supporter of Trump’s idea to construct a border wall, helping 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 DHS.

“I’ve made my opinion of Kris Kobach very clear,” McCaskill, a former prosecutor, said on Monday.

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

Immigration knowledge

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

“He certainly has a commanding knowledge of the whole immigration issue,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for FAIR. “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.

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

A voting proposal?

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

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

The state adopted a requirement that voters must provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register. Kobach has contended that the policy prevents non-citizens 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.”

Trump has already selected one Kansan for his administration, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, who was nominated to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Gov. Sam Brownback praised Pompeo and Kobach as men who have thought deeply about the policies they’re advocating. “And some of it may be cutting edge to some people, where they look at that and go, ‘I’m not quite sure about it.’ But these guys have thought this through and they’ve been outstanding,” he said.

Kobach says U.S. could pay for Trump's wall

Kris Kobach wants to see Donald Trump’s long promised wall along the Mexican border become a reality, even if U.S. taxpayers have to pay the multibillion-dollar bill.

Hunter Woodall The Kansas City Star

Noncitizen voters. Big problem or negligible?

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and National ACLU attorney Sophia Lakin argued in court Wednesday over whether the state can legally exclude federally registered voters from state and local elections if they don't provide documented proof of citizenship. (Sept, 21, 2016/The Wichita Eagle)

dlefler@wichitaeagle.com