Despite a general consensus at Monday’s fifth Senate Judiciary Committee immigration hearing this year, a voice of opposition came from minority-side witness Kris Kobach, the current Secretary of State of Kansas. Aside from Kobach, a diverse set of witnesses expressed their support for the recently introduced bipartisan immigration bill and urged the Senate to move forward with reform.
Kobach, however, stands out among his fellow panelists. He is best known for being the brains behind the slew of devastating anti-immigrant laws adopted in several states over the past few years, including Arizona’s SB 1070 in 2010 and similar laws in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri. More recently, he served as immigration policy advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and is largely credited for the “self-deportation” policy embraced by the Romney campaign.
At the hearing, Kobach once again promoted a policy of self-deportation for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. When pressed by Senator Dick Durbin (D–Ill.), who has led the DREAM Act effort in the Senate for more than a decade, on whether he believes DREAMers deserve a chance to legalize their status, Kobach insisted that removal would be a just and fair treatment. With DREAMer and immigrant rights leader Gaby Pacheco sitting just a few feet away on the same panel, Kobach argued against “rewarding” DREAMers by allowing them to stay in the United States. (Watch a clip of the exchange below)
But as experts have shown, self-deportation is a misguided, ineffective, and needlessly cruel way to address our immigration problems. States that have tried self-deportation have seen their economies suffer, experienced higher job losses, have added burdensome new regulations to schools and businesses, and have seen greater discrimination against Latinos.
Having witnessed these results, the American people have rejected this policy. Last year, American voters were presented with two very different approaches to immigration: President Barack Obama advocated for comprehensive immigration reform while Governor Mitt Romney promoted self-deportation. Americans, Hispanics in particular, resoundingly chose comprehensive reform. Sen. Durbin captured this sentiment perfectly when he said: “Ultimately, the voters have the last word. Voters had the last word on self-deportation on November 6.”
Now it’s up to Congress to carry out the will of the people.