White House

Reports: Immigration hardliner Kobach misses out on top Homeland Security job

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Kansas City Star

President-elect Donald Trump has passed over Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for the top job at the Department of Homeland Security, according to multiple reports Wednesday.

Trump is expected to announce the selection of retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly for DHS secretary officially next week, along with other national security nominations.

Kobach, an immigration hardliner, was thought to be under consideration for the post. Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, also had been mentioned as a possible nominee.

Calls to Kobach’s office were not immediately returned.

Kobach, who met with Trump in New Jersey last month, was photographed carrying plans for DHS after their meeting.

It’s possible that Trump might still offer Kobach a role at DHS or the Justice Department.

A group that supports a more restrictive immigration policy praised Kelly’s selection on Wednesday, and encouraged Trump to consider Kobach for an immigration enforcement role.

“Kris Kobach has decades of hands-on experience working both in the administration and with communities on the front lines of illegal immigration,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “He’s an incredibly sharp constitutional lawyer who understands the law, and knows exactly what needs to be done to quickly regain control of the nation’s borders.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the immigration organization a “hate group,” a label it disputes. Kobach has done legal work for the group in the past.

The outspoken conservative has served as Kansas secretary of state since 2011, championing stricter voting laws and gaining the power to prosecute election crimes last year.

Kobach was the architect of one of the toughest immigration laws in the country, which he drafted when he was a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Arizona’s 2010 SB 1070 requires law enforcement officers to demand to see the immigration papers of anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally.

SB 1070 has faced legal challenges since it was signed into law, and many of its provisions have been struck down.

Kobach has advised Trump on immigration and was a member of his transition team.

Kobach, an early Trump backer was also widely considered a top candidate for attorney general, but that job went to Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, another Trump ally.

Kerry Gooch, the executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said Kobach’s close ties to Trump didn’t guarantee him a top job in the new administration.

“He has now lost out on two major appointments with Trump’s cabinet,” Gooch said. “The president-elect’s reluctance to place Kobach anywhere, even though he’s chosen many other members for his administration, seems very indicative of Kobach’s true value.”

When asked at the Kansas Statehouse on Monday whether he’d have any job announcements this week, Kobach told reporters, “I don’t know.”

Helling writes for the Kansas City Star. Curtis Tate contributed to this story from Washington. Bryan Lowry of the Wichita Eagle contributed from Topeka, Kan.

Lindsay Wise: 202-383-6007, @lindsaywise