Opinion

Commentary: Kobach's unremarkable record on immigration policy

Mary Sanchez is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.
Mary Sanchez is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. MCT

So now Kris Kobach's campaign has degenerated into expecting props for merely floating dreams of rewriting the U.S. Constitution.

Last week the candidate for Kansas secretary of state gave a prime example of the contorted language of politics. Claim what you will do for future constituents, regardless of your ability to produce a result.

Kobach left out his rather unremarkable record in these matters during his news conference. Instead, he waxed on about working with wildcard Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce to attempt a state-level challenge to the standard of U.S. citizenship by birth.

I realize this appeals to some people. But as I've pointed out before, it's fantasy that a baby can "anchor" a family of illegal immigrants to the U.S. Besides, it is extremely difficult to alter the Constitution for good reasons. Not something to tinker with, especially just to win votes.

Here's what else Kobach failed to mention.

A U.S. Court of Appeals handed Kobach a unanimous decision earlier this month, basically telling him his version of immigration law is unconstitutional. The decision didn't receive much press or links to Kobach in this part of the country. And Kobach, of course, didn't hold a news conference to announce his legal defeat.

But he worked with Hazleton, Penn., in its efforts to keep businesses from hiring illegal immigrants and to punish landlords who might rent to them.

The court's decision was highly awaited as states and cities are eager to see how far they can dabble in the federal issue of immigration.

Early in the decade, Hazleton saw its population swell dramatically, by nearly 10,000, as legal and illegal immigrants were drawn by the usual things that lure them — jobs and lower costs of living.

Not surprisingly, a backlash ensued with all the usual claims that the new arrivals were causing rampant crime and harming the city economically. Testimony disproved many of the allegations, but the court didn't rule on the sentiments. It did smack down Kobach's legal reasoning, though.

By upholding a lower court's decision, the federal panel said Hazleton "attempted to usurp authority that the Constitution has placed beyond the vicissitudes of local governments" and "could not possibly be in greater conflict with Congress's intent."

An appeal is being considered, so the final word could come if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take up the case.

All of this turns on the need for Congress to deal with the nation's immigration issues. For decades we lured low-wage workers with jobs but not adequate systems to allow them to enter legally, much less be tracked and ensure they didn't undercut U.S. workers.

It's a huge issue but not one that can be solved by cities, states or a candidate for secretary of state.

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