When dealing with a problem like Arizona's SB 1070, you have to wonder: where did this charming piece of legislation come from?
Immigrant Rights blogger Danny Rangel already put the spotlight on Russell Pearce, the anti-immigrant state senator who pushed this bill to fruition and likes photo ops with neo-Nazis. But politicians aren't usually the ones sitting down at the computer and designing a bill. So for the major architect of SB 1070, we need to look to Kris Kobach, a lawyer for FAIR, which is designated a nativist hate group with close ties to white supremacist organizations by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
You might remember Kobach as the man who thinks his time is best spent fighting to deny undocumented students in-state tuition. And though he tries to downplay his reach, a Mother Jones profile that takes a closer look at whom they've dubbed "The Man Behind Arizona's Immigration Law" points out that both NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant organization that's part of the John Tanton Network, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which fights on behalf of immigrant rights, agree that his stamp is clear on anti-immigrant efforts across the country. Kobach continues to call the shots on the revisions to SB 1070, and he's eager to help other states implement their own versions of the law.
Complaints that SB 1070 will promote racial profiling has come fast and furious; this is not an unusual place for Kobach to find himself. In the wake of 9/11, as a Bush administration lawyer, he designed the "National Security Entry-Exit Registration System," which required fingerprinting and monitoring of visitors from Muslim and Arab countries. As Prerna Lal recently pointed out on Race in America, the program registered 83,000 people and led to the arbitrary detention of over 1,000 individuals, but didn't net a single terrorist and eventually died under the weight of charges of racial profiling and discrimination.
And as the Kansas GOP chair, Kobach bragged about voter caging by Republicans, an illegal tactic used to block minorities, who are expected to be Democrats in greater numbers, from casting their vote based on technicalities.
One thing Kobach is good at: building in to his bills excuses to defend them in court. A point continually made by supporters of SB 1070 is that it was designed to track with federal immigration law. And it's true that it was designed with this in mind, so that as the court challenges come, Kobach can argue they're not doing much of anything different. Yet it's key that, firstly, the legislation is not identical, and secondly, it makes a difference whether the law is dealing with federal immigration officials or local police whose training and priorities lie elsewhere.
Kobach himself continues to argue for state and local government's authority to usurp federal jurisdiction on immigration issues, though this has been struck down repeatedly.
Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue
Alex DiBranco is a Change.org Editor who has worked for the Nation, Political Research Associates, and the Center for American Progress. She is now based in New York City.