From the Field

Kansas Coalitions Gather, Protest to Demand Kris Kobach “Account for His Time”


Cloee Cooper • Mar 01, 2012

Photo: Stuart Elliott

Hundreds gathered in the state of Kansas this month to hold Secretary of State Kris Kobach accountable for his anti-immigrant and pro-corporate bent, which is to say nothing of his general neglect for the people of the state he purportedly serves. On February 15, three state-wide coalitions—Kansans United in Voice & Spirit, Kansas Stronger Together, and KanVote—came together at the steps of the state capital in Topeka to request Kobach’s time-sheets.

“If Mr. Kobach thinks that we are going to sit back and let him do this, we are here to tell him that we will not stand for it,” said Sulma Arias, executive director of Sunflower Community Action in Kansas.

And the turnout for the demonstration was larger than expected. Signs could be seen from inside the state capital that read, “No Hate in Our state,” “I am Kansas,” and “We Demand Democracy.” Hundreds gathered on the steps, and loud chants of both “si se puede” and “yes it can be done” reverberated out from the crowd.

One of the primary organizers of the day’s event, Sunflower Community Action, identified Kris Kobach years back for his close ties to the bigoted Federation for American Immigration Reform, the centerpiece organization of the John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant groups. More recently, Kris Kobach has taken national heat from civil and human rights organizations for his role in drafting Alabama’s stringent anti-immigrant law HB-56.

But beyond his ties to hate groups and his role in making immigrants’ lives across the country miserable, recent coalitions in Kansas have rallied together against him, and together have started demanding that Mr. Kobach account for his time in office.

One organizer of the day’s action, Angela Ferguson, a lawyer with Sunflower Community Action, mentioned the following while speaking to the crowd:

“We have delivered an open records request to the Secretary of State, and we asked for all of his time records, all of his travel schedule, and all of his phone records because we don’t believe our Secretary of State is doing his job.”

Activists then hand delivered Kansas Open Records Act requests for all timesheets, calendars, schedules, and phone records kept by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

One point of concern, according to an article covering the day’s events, is that Kobach has recently been pushing the legislature to adopt proof of citizenship requirements for new voter registration. His efforts, in fact, are rooted in US history, as racial minorities have been banned or pushed to the side when it comes to voting. Kris Kobach’s attempts in Kansas are part of a larger effort to curb black and brown voting power in this country, and many people in Kansas will not stand for it.

While serving as the Secretary of State of Kansas, Kobach continues to maintain his position at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the John Tanton Network. Through his position with IRLI and his connections to FAIR, Kris Kobach has helped draft and defend anti-immigrant policies in Arizona, Alabama, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, California, and Texas. The legislation that he drafts prohibits undocumented residents of communities from obtaining any form of social services, bars them from public institutions, and puts pressure on common workers in the public sector to become informants for the INS.

Not surprisingly, hundreds of people across the state of Kansas are fed up with him.

One of the lead organizers of the day’s successful action against Kobach, Sulma Arias of Sunflower Community Action, stated the following:

“Dignity is denied to millions of us by immigration laws that are antiquated and need to be revised in order to accommodate the needs of all Americans. If the law is making ‘illegals’ out of innocent people then let’s change the law, so that we can stop the oppression and persecution that our families are facing.”

Meanwhile, Kris Kobach continues to introduce bills in Kansas, including one that would compel local law enforcement to detain those they believe may be in the country without documentation until those individuals can provide documentation. Another would enact stiff penalties for “harboring” undocumented immigrants.

Kobach and his anti-immigrant agenda must continue to be met with staunch, active opposition.

The demonstration against him on February 15 highlights the inevitable backlash that he will continue to endure from hundreds and thousands of people so long as he continues his battle against everyday people of all backgrounds. Our communities in Kansas will keep fighting until Kobach is held accountable for his failure to adequately serve the people of Kansas before his own devotion to the John Tanton Network and the anti-immigrant movement en masse.

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