Secretary of State Kris Kobach put his stamp on the Republican Party platform in Tampa this week, rallying support for tough anti-illegal immigration laws and strict voter citizenship rules.
He said he also got support for a provision that would oppose any attempts to limit how many bullets can go into a gun’s magazine and for new language calling for states to ban the use of foreign law in state courts.
The Kobach-backed changes are part of a state and national trend that is pushing the Republican Party farther to the right on some key issues. The changes have drawn outcry from opponents who say Kobach’s approach to stopping illegal immigration leads to profiling and discrimination.
Party platforms are mostly insider documents that set the tone for political groups, but they can be used to rally support for specific initiatives since they’re seen as things the party as a whole agrees on.
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"State lawmakers can point to it as something that the party supports," Kobach said. "It adds additional force to their arguments."
On voter ID, Kobach said the party’s platform now calls on states to adopt laws requiring people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote, mirroring a controversial law that goes into effect in Kansas next year.
On foreign law, the national platform reflects a new Kansas law that aims to prevent courts from basing any decision on foreign laws, most notably Islamic laws. Kobach said he isn’t aware of such arguments ever winning a case in Kansas, but that such arguments have been made.
On immigration, the GOP platform now encourages states to fight illegal immigration with Arizona-style state laws. Kobach helped write those laws, although he hasn’t gotten enough support for them to become law in his home state.
The Supreme Court in June struck down several key provisions of the Arizona law, but it allowed states to enact laws that require law enforcement officers to conduct immigration checks on people they have already stopped or arrested if they suspect the person is here illegally.
The platform also calls for all lawsuits against tough state immigration laws to be dropped.
And it says that the federal government should deny funds to universities that allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Kansas currently allows students who have attended Kansas high schools for at least three years to pay in-state tuition; attempts to repeal that law have failed in recent years.
Finally, Kobach’s amendments to the party platform call for the mandatory use of E-Verify, a federal database where employers can check employees’ immigration status.
Kobach has pressed for tougher immigration laws for years and has become perhaps the most-recognized and outspoken secretary of state in the nation by pressing for bold and partisan policy changes while overseeing elections.
Gov. Sam Brownback has said that immigration reform should be dealt with on the federal level – not by states. His office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the GOP platform.
Even with the Republicans’ national platform changing, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which helped rally support for conservative Republican candidates this summer, remains opposed to Arizona-style immigration laws and the mandated use of the E-Verify system to check employees’ immigration status, according to chamber lobbyist Eric Stafford.
The chamber wants immigration reform at the national level – not state-specific laws, Stafford said.
Meanwhile, he said the chamber would likely push again for a program in Kansas where the state would officially support undocumented immigrants in getting temporary work visas to take jobs in sectors with proven worker shortages, such as agriculture, construction and engineering.
“We want to make work visas more accessible for people who want to come here to work,” he said.