Emails between former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the then-acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reveal that Kobach sent a list of 289 people to the agency in 2017 to ask it to check if any of them were undocumented, according to the Kansas City Star.
Kobach had pulled the list from occupancy licenses in Fremont, Nebraska, which had hired him to craft a city ordinance banning undocumented immigrants from renting houses and apartments. (Kobach, representing the city in court, won Fremont’s right to enact that ordinance in 2014.) “The Fremont ordinance permits the city to share any information on the alien’s application with ICE for ICE’s own purposes,” Kobach wrote in the emails. “So if your agents want to use that information for ICE enforcement operations, the ordinance contemplates that.”
Kobach’s emails were specific. Under the ordinance, the occupancy licenses renters had to submit to landlords mandated that renters mark if they were citizens or noncitizens. Kobach apparently wanted to use these answers to help Fremont rid itself of undocumented immigrants. “If you could assign someone to determine the immigration status of each alien and add that to the attached word file, that would be great,” he wrote. But his request didn’t lead to any actions from ICE, as the agency’s acting director, Thomas Homan, replied in the emails that he would need proof Kobach was acting on behalf of the Fremont police. Homan also warned against using occupancy licenses to learn anything about someone’s immigration status.
According to the government watchdog American Oversight, which obtained the emails through a records request, Kobach’s straightforward suggestion that ICE identify undocumented immigrants from his list and arrest them appears to undermine the legal justification for the ordinance. According to the Star, when the American Civil Liberties Union sued over the ordinance, alleging that it was discriminatory and intended to frighten off Latino residents of Fremont, Kobach—who was paid more than $100,000 for his immigration work for the city—said that its intention was not to intimidate immigrants. If Kobach gave the names on applications directly to ICE to ask for information on immigrants, critics contend, any fears that the ordinance would be used to feed information to ICE would have been justified.
Kobach has been a zealous anti-immigrant figure in recent years. He built much of his political career on unsubstantiated claims that undocumented immigrants were illegally voting, and in 2017, he was placed in charge of Trump’s failed voter fraud commission. As Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach focused on claims of voter fraud, but when he ran for governor of the state in 2018, he lost to Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach is now running for the U.S. Senate.