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In High Court's Immigration Decision, an Ideologue is Repudiated

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For the better part of seven years now, Kansas attorney Kris Kobach has been urging municipalities and states to pass the draconian laws he writes that are aimed at so badly punishing undocumented immigrants that they will "self-deport." Even as governments went into debt to pay his fees and the cost of defending his dubious statutes, Kobach insisted that if they hung tough, they would win in the end.

As was made clear by this morning's Supreme Court decision, which invalidated three of the four contested provisions of Arizona's harsh S.B.1070, he was wrong. The high court essentially upheld decades of settled law, saying the federal government, not states or cities, has the right to regulate most immigration law.

Woe to those who believed Kobach's fairy tales. If they quit now, they are out millions of dollars. If they don't, it will probably get even worse for them.

It's not like these places -- Hazleton, Pa., Valley Park, Mo., Farmers Branch, Tex., Fremont, Neb., and states including Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah -- weren't warned. As Kobach and others bamboozled these places into trying to solve the immigration problem with unconstitutional laws, it was being widely pointed out what effect the laws were actually having.

One town had to raise property taxes to defend Kobach's law. Another had to cut personnel and special events and even outsource its library. Business centers of several collapsed as Latino immigrants fled. Race relations went south in almost every community where the laws were passed, with racist attacks on Latinos and tensions rising in neighborhood after neighborhood. Latino cooperation with police largely ended. Opponents of the laws reported serious harassment, including one mayor who retired after federal agents warned him of possible attacks.

That's not all. Kobach, who was elected to his current position as Kansas secretary of state largely on the basis of press he received for his nativist activism, has been working all this time for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), even since taking office. The Southern Poverty Law Center, where I am a Senior Fellow, lists FAIR as a hate group because of its white nationalist ideology.

FAIR has spent most of the last three decades, as its founder John Tanton once wrote, trying to preserve "a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." Although the group is typically less than candid about its real motives, its president, Dan Stein, has sounded similar notes, angrily denouncing President Lyndon B. Johnson's passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which ended a racist system of national quotas. Johnson celebrated the demise of the act's "prejudice." For Stein, it was a "key mistake" in policy that was forced upon America by people who sought "to retaliate against Anglo-Saxon dominance" and "create chaos."

Kobach and FAIR exploited the fears of communities and states across America, costing them millions of dollars, peace in their communities, and any sense of decency in their attempts to solve the real problems brought on by unauthorized immigration. They should be ashamed of the damage they have wrought.

Early on, when Kobach tried unsuccessfully to inject his poison into the city of Albertville, Ala., the publisher of the local Sand Mountain Reporter summed up the efforts of the out-of-state interloper nicely. "I fear Mr. Kobach targets towns like ours, and towns like Hazleton, Pa., Valley Park, Mo., and Farmers Branch, Tex., as financial windfalls," Ben Shurett wrote. "I think he preys on the legitimate concerns, the irrational fears and even some bigoted attitudes to convince cities to hire him to represent their interests in lawsuits that may not be winnable."

Wise words, and ones that all America ought to heed.