Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was passed over for cabinet level posts as head of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, but reports now suggest the Trump administration may be creating a special post just for him – that of “immigration czar.”
The reports, predictably, are being met with support by immigration hard-liners and cynicism by Kobach’s detractors. The position of “czar” has often been a direct appointment by the president without approval from the Senate.
Dan Stein is President of The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR,) a group that seeks to restrict and reduce immigration to the United States. Stein says FAIR is still holding out hope that Kobach might get the nod for a post in the Department of Homeland Security or the Justice Department. President-elect Trump recently selected Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly as his nominee to run DHS and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
But Stein says FAIR would be ecstatic if Kobach were chosen as an immigration policy coordinator at a semi-cabinet level.
“Call it czar, or something else,” Stein says. “It’s very important because there is no one at the cabinet level who really has responsibility for tying immigration to labor issues or environmental issues or getting the Social Security Administration and IRS to share data with (The Department of Homeland Security,) he says.
Kobach has sought to bring together data across agencies in Kansas in service of his policies. In December, he asked for data from the Kansas Department of Revenue so he can compare the names of temporary driver’s license holders with voter registration rolls maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office. Kobach is hoping the comparison will bolster his defense for a state requirement of proof of citizenship for voter registration that is being challenged in court.
The idea of Kris Kobach as immigration czar worries David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and counsel to a number of immigration reform groups.
“Kris Kobach should be nowhere near the immigration policy apparatus,” Leopold says. “To consider him for a czar-type position is simply an end-around the Senate because there’s no way the Senate would confirm him. He’s toxic.”
Kobach advised the Trump campaign, which did appear to latch on to a lot of his ideas. For example, Trump’s plan for a Mulsim registry seems much like a program Kobach claims to have designed in the wake of 9/11 while an advisor to then- Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Since the end of the campaign, Trump has softened his stance on a Muslim ban. But Trump has continued to repeat a claim attributed to Kobach that he lost the popular vote because of illegal votes by non-citizens.
Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @laurazig.