Not only is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the thick of the latest national debate over immigration policy, he remains under consideration for a high-level job in the Trump administration.
The state’s chief elections officer told Kansas Republicans gathered Saturday in Manhattan for their 2017 state convention that he was advising President Donald Trump and key members of his national security team on how to overcome a recent federal court ruling blocking the administration’s ban on travel from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations.
He also confirmed in interviews that he was still talking with the president about a job and hinted that a decision was near.
“I don’t want to say for certain what’s happening, but people will know soon enough what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be,” he said.
On the travel ban, Kobach said Trump is considering several options. They include issuing a revised executive order that instead of blocking travel from select counties would suspend the nation’s refugee program “in its entirety” for three months.
The hiatus would give officials time to assess and strengthen the vetting process, Kobach said, ticking through a list of terrorists who he said had used the refugee program to enter the country over the last 20 years.
“That’s critically important, because if you are a terrorist attempting to enter the United States that’s the best mechanism you can use,” Kobach said. “You can come in illegally, claim asylum once you get here and then have that green card that allows you to go back and forth.”
Stephen Miller, another senior adviser to the Trump administration, sent similar signals during appearances on the Sunday network talk shows.
Over the weekend, both Miller and Kobach also repeated Trump’s claims of massive illegal voting in the 2016 election.
In addition to asserting that millions of illegal votes for Hillary Clinton denied him a victory in the popular vote, Trump has said that Massachusetts voters crossing the border into New Hampshire to cast illegal ballots cost him the state and former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte re-election in a tight race won by Democrat Maggie Hassan.
Kobach’s support of the president’s claims stems from an investigation that he conducted in Kansas, which he said uncovered 115 instances of people registering or attempting to register illegally over the last several election cycles. He said he believes that number is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
“There’s no doubt there’s more,” he said.
There is no hard evidence of large-scale voter fraud, according to Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning publication that scrutinizes the claims and counterclaims of politicians.
Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, a Kansas nonprofit formed to boost voter turnout, said he suspects that even Kobach’s initial findings overstate the problem.
“I have no reason to believe that list (of 115 cases) is legitimate,” Hammet said.
Jim McLean is managing director of KCUR’s Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.