TOPEKA — About 50 high school and college students whose parents illegally brought them to the United States protested Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s tough immigration laws Tuesday afternoon and called on him to drop a lawsuit against a program that could allow them to legally work in the country.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program President Obama approved in June allows people under 30 who came to the United States illegally but have pursued education or military service and have no felonies to get two-year work permits.
Kobach is representing 10 U.S. immigration and customs enforcement employees in a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the policy because they say it forces them to ignore federal law by not arresting some illegal immigrants.
Luis Sosa, a Butler Community College student, said he just wants to be able to take care of his parents like they took care of him. He said going to college as an illegal student is already tough, but it gives him a chance to be part of the American dream.
“I just don’t see why he’s so troubled with it and is trying to take it away,” he said.
He and the other students, about half of whom live in Kansas, stood at the Memorial Hall building where Kobach works and asked him to drop the lawsuit, stop attacking illegal-immigrant families with tough new laws, and resign for spending too much time fighting illegal immigration instead of working as secretary of state.
Kobach’s spokeswoman, Kay Curtis, said Kobach would not come down from his office to talk with four of the students because he had previously scheduled work and because he doesn’t handle immigration issues when he’s working as secretary of state. The secretary of state oversees elections and business filings.
“What he’s doing even here in this office is affecting me in Arizona,” said Erika Andiola of Mesa, Ariz. “You might say how is that possible? Well, let’s just say he’s not doing his job.”
Andiola said a get-tough immigration law that Kobach drafted in Arizona led to her mother being arrested two weeks ago. “That’s just not fair,” she said.
Curtis declined to respond to questions about immigration policy.
“It’s kind of ironic that a group that is accusing him… that he shouldn’t be doing immigration issues, that you’re here on a workday at his work place asking him to do immigration issues?” she asked. “That’s just not something that he does.”
Curtis said she spent half her morning taking phone calls from people who agree with the protesters.
“I don’t have anything to do with immigration issues,” she said.
Kobach later told the Associated Press he read the students’ letter but thought it would have been inappropriate for him to have met with the students in his office because he tries to separate his official duties from his outside interests.
“The audacity of these illegal aliens is amazing. First they demand that we not enforce the laws against them. And now they demand that a public official who believes in the rule of law should step down,” Kobach said. “Illegal means illegal, and that’s a very simple concept to understand and yet they want me to ignore the fact that the law has meaning in Kansas.”
Kobach is one of the nation’s most well-known opponents of illegal immigration, and he has helped draft legislation in Kansas, Alabama, Arizona and other cities and states.
The protest against him follows the presidential election in which some political operatives say Gov. Mitt Romney’s tougher position on immigration may have cost him votes from Hispanics. Romney announced that Kobach was supporting his presidential bid and said he was “on the team.”
But Romney later tried to distance himself from Kobach, saying he never formally met with Kobach for advice on immigration policy.