The one appointment Washington insiders knew would be key for Donald Trump would be the Department of Homeland Security. Traditionally a post held for a politically-oriented type of individual, it has been thought Trump would go heavily towards a tough, ideological choice who would more than likely be controversial.
It appears he will not disappoint. The rumors shrilling through the nation’s capital suggest that Trump’s choice may be a champion of the rule of law, and on the left as a crusader for racist policies. That man is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an early supporter of the president-elect and now part of his transition team on immigration, thrusting him into the national spotlight.
The possibility can be considered political in nature, but Kobach comes with his own unique brand of law and order which is neither quiet nor politically correct. He will be the man responsible for turning some of Trump’s more controversial anti-terrorism proposals into political reality; including the so-called Muslim ban or Muslim registry.
Whether some of Kobach’s presumed policies will cut the muster in a divided nation, it is sending the kind of message Trump promised in his presidential campaign. At the very forefront will be the president-elect’s efforts to build a wall along the border with Mexico and round up criminal undocumented immigrants.
Kobach, a constitutional lawyer, is the principal author of Arizona’s strict immigration law. He drafted planks of the GOP’s national platform concerning immigration policy. During the 2012 election, he advised presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the concept of “self-deportation.”
He has a history that goes back to working at the Justice Department under former Attorney General John Ashcroft. He led the development of a controversial visa screening program enacted by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
He has also been an active litigator defending cities that have enacted policies aimed at discouraging illegal immigration.
Critics of Kobach have called him mean-spirited and obsessed with immigrants. Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D) back in 2015 called Kobach, “the most racist politician in America today.” His comment came from Kobach saying “it’s not a huge jump” for the Obama administration to put a moratorium on the prosecution of all African-American suspects.
Nevertheless, Trump met this week with Kobach to discuss border security, international terrorism and reforming the federal bureaucracy. He was photographed coming to the meeting with a written plan for the DHS for Trump’s first 365 days in office. Visible on the document was one item calling to reinstate and “update” the Bush-era program he spearheaded, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).
President Obama suspended the program in 2011 after it failed to produce a single terrorism conviction. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) suggested reinstating NSEERS “flies in the face of the Constitution and is a threat to the civil liberties of all Americans.” Naureen Shah, Amnesty International’s security and human rights director said, “It’s a lot like the registry for Muslims Trump has proposed, just instead of saying it’s a registry for Muslims, it’s termed as a registry for people from a certain country and those countries are Muslim-majority countries.”
Meanwhile, Trump is also reportedly considering Marine Gen. John F. Kelly and former Bush-era homeland security official Frances Townsend to fill the DHS post. Whoever gets the final pick will be a hardline immigration official who believes in the rule of law and the laws presently on the books.