Our VoiceImmigration

Kris Kobach: “Fanatics” and the Carving of Social Space

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • May 03, 2011

In a move straight out of a high school debate club “How to Argue” handbook, Kris Kobach compared his life’s work with Winston Churchill’s. Kobach, the Federation for American Immigration Reforms’s (FAIR) Constitutional assassin, was characterizing his own blinding obsession with a virulently bigoted anti-immigrant worldview, one he shares with FAIR.

Instead, Kobach defined himself for what he is—a “fanatic.”

At a “Vigil to Save the American Worker” held in Kansas City back in October 2006, he said:

“He [Churchill] said that his definition of a fanatic is ‘someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject’. And friends, if that’s what a fanatic is, then I guess I’m a fanatic. Because, when it comes to restoring the rule of law, I can’t change my mind and I won’t change the subject.”

Bragging about his willful narrow-mindedness begs some serious questions. Do we really want racists who are proud of their fanatical leanings writing our laws?

Do we really want a brand of leaders who “can’t” and “won’t” change their minds?

Anyone who’s answered “No” should recognize that these fanatics have dedicated their existences to carving social spaces within which bigotry appears legitimate and benign.

And such is the case with Kobach’s “ID-at-polls” bill, a measure which Kobach denoted as:

“…not a Republican issue. It’s not a Democrat issue. It’s an American issue.”

This bill is “an American issue” in as much as racism and bigotry certainly are American cultural issues.

Arizona provides examples.

SB 1070 – written by Kobach and FAIR – carved such social space for some unabashedly bigoted legal measures: teachers with accents were being barred from English classrooms; ethnic studies classes were stricken from curriculums post-haste.

And such is the case with Kobach’s “ID-at-polls” bill, which features legal language that’s obviously much “safer” than SB 1070. Why? Well, Kobach’s honing his bill writing skills as none of the bills he’s penned have been deemed Constitutional.

And if KS Governor Brownback signs “ID-at-polls” into law, a broader range of attacks on our civil rights will commence.

The much broader swath of bigotry that Kobach’s scything into American culture follows:

  • Post 9/11, while a fellow for John Ashcroft, Kobach proposed legal measures straight out of negative-utopian novels. His National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (notice the “safe” title) is one example. Essentially, “NSEERS mandated that men from certain Arab and Muslim nations be photographed and fingerprinted when they arrived in the United States. Men from these countries who were already U.S. residents had to register. NSEERS also required that they be interviewed 30 days after they entered the country, that they notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service if they changed their address, and that they present themselves for an annual interview while they remained on American soil.” But, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) eventually disclosed that individuals from over 150 countries were impacted, with the “Total Number of Registrations” reaching 290,526. Ultimately, DHS suspended NSEERS in 2003.
  • Mark Krikorian and Kris Kobach are allies. Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Tanton’s think-tank that works hand-in-hand with IRLI, SLLI, and FAIR. Recently, Krikorian wrote this about Muslims: “I’m afraid that in the Islamic world democracy faces the problem of a vicious people, one where the desire for freedom is indeed written in every human heart, but the freedom to do evil.”
  • As Laura Lebo writes, “Kobach touts his Christian values frequently and uses them to defend against accusations that his anti-immigration efforts are based on bigotry.” Kobach certainly uses his faith as a basis to spread anti-LGBT rhetoric far-and-wide, and he is on record as a staunch opponent of gay-marriage rights. His church, The Christ Church, Anglican of Overland Park, is part of the Anglican Realignment movement, which split-off when Gene Robinson was ordained a bishop. Robinson is openly gay. Former Archbishop Emmanuel Musaba Kolini of the Anglican Church of Uganda, where Kobach boasts he has done his missionary work, once “likened homosexuality to ‘moral genocide’ and his successor Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje has vowed to carry on his predecessor’s policies.”

Through the power of language, he seeks to criminalize the collective existence of “illegal” immigrants, of invading “aliens.”

Again, with “ID-at-polls,” social space will be opened for bigotry, and anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim, not to mention much harsher, more openly bigoted anti-immigrant legislation, will emerge. We must recognize that Kobach’s “safe sounding” bills and his “illegal” and “alien” word choices are those of a politician, one motivated by bigotry.

Such word choices are designed to remove the “human” and the “rights” from the existences of those most at-risk within our society.

Read more about the dangers of Kobach and FAIR’s “safe” language here: “Drop the I-word” campaign.

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