Yesterday in Kansas, a man was arrested after his truck was found allegedly packed with several homemade shrapnel-filled bombs near the Capitol. The Kansas legislature also began a series of hearings yesterday over different immigration bills.
The car found with the explosives had bumper stickers that said “Welcome to America. Now Speak English” and “Does my American flag offend you? Dial 1 800 LEAVE THE USA.” The car also had stickers and a license plate identifying the owner as an Army paratrooper. The man was arrested inside a tunnel underneath the Capitol, used by legislators and others to move between the Capitol and a legislative office building. The man claimed he was headed to a meeting in one of the offices.
At the same time, hundreds of pro-immigrant demonstrators were at the Capitol peacefully responding to the American Legislative Exchange Council and Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The demonstrators submitted dozens of public records requests in order to determine how much time Kobach has spent on his work with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform that writes anti-immigrant bills for state legislatures. Kobach is the author of Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56 and currently listed as an Of Counsel attorney for IRLI.
Sunflower Community Action, a leading organization focused on education, and immigrant and workers rights, released a statement in response to the bombing attempt, “As Kansans, we can lead with our values of family, faith and hard work and not with the message of hate being spread by Secretary of State Kris Kobach. If the rhetoric continues we will continue to see incidents like the one in Topeka on Wednesday.”
The bomb scare invokes memories of a shrapnel bomb found last year in Spokane, Washington, along the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march route. White supremacists detonated a shrapnel bomb in downtown Spokane in 1996.
This incident could be another indicator of the increasingly militaristic approach of nativists and racists to advance their agenda. In 2009, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter urging the House and Senate Committees on Homeland Security and Armed Services to investigate the presence of extremists in the armed services. In recent years, we have witnessed the rise of groups like the Oath Keepers, Minutemen, and “Ready’s Rangers” (a militant group patrolling the border led by neo-Nazi JT Ready) answering the call to fight against a supposed immigrant “invasion.” Who is constantly sounding the alarm? Other more supposedly “mainstream” anti-immigrant organizations.
Yesterday’s scare is another reminder why deferring to the politics of invasion and riling up more extreme elements can have dire consequences. Perhaps Kansas’s Secretary of State should be more focused on threats from domestic terrorism than immigrant families.