Politics & Government

Kobach: Panel with ProEnglish director not sign of ties

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he “had no idea who was going to be on my panel” when he agreed to appear Saturday on an immigration panel at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington, D.C.

Kobach will share the stage with Robert Vandervoort, executive director of ProEnglish, who has past ties to the white nationalist group, Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance, a news release from the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights critically pointed out Thursday.

Vandervoort’s ProEnglish opposes bilingual ballots and bilingual education, and will host a panel discussion at the CPAC event on “The Failure of Multiculturalism.”

Vandervoort, Kobach and others will be on a CPAC panel entitled, “Immigration — High Fences, Wide Gates: States vs. the Feds, the Rule of Law & American Identity.”

Kobach has gained national attention for his role writing laws in other states regarding illegal immigration. In Kansas, he pushed through a voter photo identification law last year.

Kobach noted that two other members on the panel, U.S. Reps. David Rivera and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of Florida, are Hispanic. The panel moderator, Congress of Racial Equality’s spokesman Niger Innis, is African-American.

The e-mail sent by Devon Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights focused nearly entirely on Kobach and Vandervoort, mentioning the other panel members only in the closing paragraph.

“Give me a break,” Kobach said.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said, to link the Hispanic members of Congress and CORE’s spokesman to white nationalism because they are participating with Vandervoort on a panel.

Kobach said he does not recall ever meeting Vandervoort. He also said organizers usually try to put people with differing views on panels to make it interesting.

The two split on bilingual ballots, mandated by federal voting law. Kobach said he thinks bilingual ballots are “reasonable,” so voters will clearly understand the ballot.

Ideally, Kobach said, everyone would understand English.

Efforts to reach Vandervoort and the Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance were unsuccessful.