Politics & Government

Kris Kobach helps add border wall, same-sex marriage, gun planks to GOP platform

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks at Donald Trump’s rally in Wichita earlier this year. (March 5, 2016)
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks at Donald Trump’s rally in Wichita earlier this year. (March 5, 2016) File photo

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s contributions to the Republican Party’s national platform include support for a wall along the Mexican border and a denunciation of same-sex marriage.

Kobach has been part of the GOP’s platform-drafting committee in Cleveland this week ahead of the Republican National Convention.

The proposed platform includes several planks he crafted, including two pages on immigration policy and a provision that opposes restrictions on AR-style rifles and other high-capacity magazine weapons. The platform won’t be approved until next week.

One of those planks is the construction of a wall “that must cover the entirety of the southern border,” a key campaign promise of presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this week that Trump’s wall will actually be a “digital wall” meant to prevent immigration, rather than a physical barrier. Kobach rejected that notion.

“The wording I chose makes very clear that it must be a physical wall,” Kobach said, explaining that under President George W. Bush, some officials supported the use of electronic sensors at the border instead of a physical wall, an idea he deems insufficient.

“There’s no metaphors. We’re talking an actual, physical barrier,” Kobach said.

The party platform does not get into specific details of how to force Mexico to pay for the wall, as Trump has promised.

Trump and Kobach have floated the idea of threatening to restrict money transfers sent by workers living in the U.S. to their families in Mexico.

Kobach also added language that states that “America’s immigration policy must serve the national interests of the United States and the interests of American workers must be protected over the claims of foreign nationals seeking the same jobs.”

The platform also calls for a Republican president to immediately rescind President Obama’s executive action to grant amnesty to about 5 million illegal immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens. That action is on hold by order of the U.S. Supreme Court.

These policies drew criticism from Latino activists in Kansas.

“It’s very hard to see that he continues to attack the Latino community – as we all know, that is not part of his job as the secretary of state,” said Guadalupe Magdaleno, an organizer for Sunflower Community Action, a grassroots organization that advocates for the Latino community in Wichita.

Magdaleno said the idea of building a wall along the border “is completely out of touch with reality.”

“Even if they (Kobach and Trump) were to build a wall ... they will not stop the immigration. People are coming to this country not because it’s easy to come, it’s because they are dying of hunger and violence in their country,” she said. “And until we address the root cause, then there’s not going to be a wall that’s going to prevent them from coming to save their lives.”

Gun rights

Kobach also helped craft planks dealing with gun rights and same-sex marriage that made it into the proposed platform.

He wrote a provision that states that the Republican Party opposes laws that would restrict magazine capacity, ban AR-style rifles or “deprive a person from the right to keep and bear arms without the right to due process.”

The provision is meant to oppose efforts to ban assault rifles – though Kobach opposes using the phrase to describe the guns – and to oppose proposals to block people on the federal government’s “no fly” list from buying guns.

Kobach said the provision is a “reaction to what some Democrats have been doing every time there’s a terrorist attack in the United States.”

“Instead of talking about defeating ISIS, they use the terrorist attack as an excuse to go after Americans’ guns,” he said.

Asked about Kobach’s role in crafting the plank, Loren Stanton, president of the Kansas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “It’s certainly nothing Kansans can be proud of.”

Stanton called assault rifles and high-capacity magazines “weapons of war” that are “outrageous to have publicly available.” He noted that a plant in Hesston was the scene of a mass shooting this year in which the gunman used a semi-automatic rifle.

Same-sex marriage

The platform committee also adopted a Kobach provision that condemns the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, a ruling he called “obviously incorrect.”

“It’s important to say that, look, the Republican Party is not going to retreat on this issue. Just like in 1973, the Republican Party didn’t retreat on Roe v. Wade,” Kobach said.

The plank came after Rachael Hoff, an openly gay delegate from the District of Columbia, unsuccessfully pushed for a provision that would have stated there was a “diversity of opinion within our party” on the issue.

“We are your daughters, we are your sons, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, the couple that sits next to you in church,” Hoff said in a speech, according to Bloomberg News. “Freedom means freedom for everyone, including gays and lesbians.”

Kobach said that he and others “emphatically rejected” Hoff’s “pro-gay marriage” position.

“It’s really important that the Republican Party plant its flag in the ground and say, look, this is the position we will continue to defend,” he said. “Because the position of the District of Columbia delegate was that we should basically pack our bags and go home and say just because five lawyers on the Supreme Court say so, the issue is now decided.”

Kobach said the issue should be decided by “we, the people” instead of unelected justices.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, an LGBT-rights organization, said Kobach “clearly has no respect for the Constitution, no respect for the court and absolutely no respect for anyone different from him.”

Previous participation

Kobach participated in the crafting of the party’s national platform in both 2008 and 2012. He said that eight years ago, he faced pushback from U.S. Sen. John McCain’s campaign.

“There was a great contrast between now and 2008,” Kobach said. “In 2008, when I was attempting to make the platform more conservative on immigration, in particular, the McCain campaign was hostile to many of the things I was attempting to put in the platform, and there was a great degree of tension. ... The McCain campaign basically thumbed its nose at the platform committee.”

Trump, on the other hand, has sought Kobach’s advice on immigration policy, and his campaign was supportive of his efforts to push the platform to the right on that issue. Kobach said that he has not spoken to Trump about the possibility of a post in his administration.

“Sure, I’d be open to it,” Kobach said. “But I’d really have to see what was being proposed.”

Traveling to Cleveland

Kobach, who has faced scrutiny about his travel expenses in recent weeks after an Associated Press investigation into his use of the state plane, said he traveled to Cleveland at his own expense.

He will fly to Nashville on Wednesday to attend a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

The trip to Nashville will be paid for by state dollars, he said, because it’s official business, but he will pay out of his own pocket to fly back to Cleveland on Saturday before the convention.

He will not return to Kansas until after the convention, which runs from Monday through Thursday next week.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3