Known for supporting tough immigration laws and policies that crack down on undocumented immigrants, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was an influential voice in the Republican Party’s immigration stance last year.
Nowadays, his national visibility is dwindling, and critics question whether he still has much influence on immigration.
“It seems that in the last month or two, we’ve seen more conservatives at the national and local level really articulating their support for immigration reform,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, told VOXXI. “As a result, Kris Kobach is finding himself on the extreme fringe of the debate.”
Among the Republican conservatives who recently joined the national call for an immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Newly added to that list is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who said last Friday that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to become citizens but that individuals who are waiting in line should have “first preference.”
“The fact that a very conservative Midwestern governor is joining the ranks of Republican presidential hopefuls who support immigration reform with a path to citizenship shows just how dramatically the politics of this issue have changed,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
Kris Kobach says his influence on immigration is undiminished
But while Noorani and Sharry contend that having more conservatives join the fight for immigration reform could be a sign that Kobach’s influence on the GOP’s immigration stance is diminishing, Kobach argues otherwise.
In an interview with The Kansas City Star, he insisted that his influence in the immigration debate is undiminished.
“It’s not my voice, it’s the voice of the American people,” he said.
Kobach supporters also argue there are still plenty of people who share Kobach’s views on immigration.
“Part of their strategy is to discredit any opposition and sort of create this sense of inevitability,” Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said about supporters of immigration reform. “The fact of the matter is that there have been several recent polls within the past few weeks that show most Americans don’t want amnesty. They want to see enforcement.”
Mehlman cited several polls to support his claim. One poll he noted is the Reuters/Ipsos poll released Feb. 20. It found that more than half of U.S. citizens believe most or all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. should be deported.
That survey was conducted online, and several critics have challenged the methodology used to derive to its results. Poll experts say online surveys rarely represent the larger population because the respondents are not selected randomly.
Another poll Mehlman pointed to was conducted Feb. 6 by Pulse Opinion Research on behalf of FAIR. Among the 1,000 likely voters surveyed: 53 percent don’t feel the nation’s borders are secure; 69 percent aren’t confident that the federal government would effectively enforce immigration laws if the current undocumented immigrant population is granted legal status; and 67 percent aren’t confident that the federal government would carry out effective background checks on undocumented immigrants applying for a legal status.
When asked about the best option for dealing with current undocumented immigrant population, 15 percent of the 1,000 likely voters surveyed said deporting them would be the best option. Another 37 percent said encouraging undocumented immigrants to return home by removing jobs and benefits would be the best option — an idea Kobach refers to as “self-deportation.”