TOPEKA — Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach said he is helping an Arizona lawmaker on legislation targeting babies born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.
"I've been willing to help him, but we are still working on that," Kobach said during a news conference on Wednesday.
The babies — who become U.S. citizens by virtue of being born in this country — have prompted some opponents of illegal immigration to consider changing the country's policy of birthright citizenship.
Kobach did not specify how the state could address the issue because federal law covers citizenship issues. He did say he did not support changing the country's 14th Amendment, nor did he think it was necessary.
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The amendment states "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
The amendment, adopted in 1868 after the Civil War, was intended to address the citizenship of freed slaves. Kobach said the writers never intended the amendment to apply to illegal immigrants or the children of diplomats.
"It is absolutely unnecessary to change the 14th Amendment," Kobach said. "The 14th Amendment does not in any way require the federal government to confer citizenship upon every person born in the United States."
Kobach said he supported an effort in the U.S. Congress that would confer citizenship on a child only if one parent was either a citizen, a green card holder or a member of the American armed forces.
He also did not plan to push for a change to state laws in Kansas.
"Immigration is a concern but has nothing to do with the office of secretary of state," said Tyler Longpine, spokesman for Kobach's Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Chris Biggs.
"Chris Biggs is focused on serving the people of Kansas as a full-time secretary of state instead of running around the country pursuing a political agenda."
Kobach, the Republican candidate for the state's chief election officer, made his remarks at an event unveiling his plan to increase civic engagement in the state through an increased online presence and speaking engagements with high school students.
Kobach also proposed creating a site, hosted on the secretary of state's website, that would be a place for people who may have witnessed voter fraud to report it.
"When you don't have actually a uniform system for reporting voter fraud easily, a lot of people just know where to go," he said.
"They experience or observe suspicious voting behavior, they don't know whom to contact. Do the call the secretary of state? Do they call the county clerk's office? Do they call the attorney general's office?"
Georgia already uses its secretary of state's website as a place where people can report voter fraud online, he said. Kobach was not sure whether the function had increased the amount of voter fraud reported in Georgia.
Kobach has made fighting voter fraud a central theme of his campaign, although Biggs, as well as former Republican secretaries, have said voter fraud is not a major problem in Kansas.
"The real fraud is the continued and dishonest insistence that Kansas elections aren't secure," Biggs said in a statement. "Our election process is fair and secure, and every eligible citizen who has the right to vote is able to do so."
Kobach has said that no one is seriously investigating potential voting fraud, so there is no way of knowing how many instances exist.