TOPEKA — About 50 college students who are in the U.S. illegally marched Tuesday on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office urging him to stop working on immigration laws and to do his state job.
The students from Kansas and Arizona delivered a letter to a staff member, who said Kobach was in his office but unable to meet with the students. The letter calls for Kobach to stop working on immigration laws and focus on his duties as secretary of state or resign for office.
“I’m still standing and fighting to have the American dream,” said Ernesto de la Rosa, a 24-year-old Dodge City student who attends Wichita State University. “We need a path to citizenship.”
The students are members of the DREAM Act Coalition. The DREAM Act would create a citizenship path for residents who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Kobach is a Republican and former law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has helped shape immigration policies around the country and continues to litigate immigration issues in other states while serving in his Kansas position.
Kobach told The Associated Press he read the students’ letter but thought it would have been inappropriate for him to have met with the students in his office because he tries to separate his official duties from his outside interests.
“The audacity of these illegal aliens is amazing. First they demand that we not enforce the laws against them. And now they demand that a public official who believes in the rule of law should step down,” Kobach said. “Illegal means illegal, and that’s a very simple concept to understand and yet they want me to ignore the fact that the law has meaning in Kansas.”
Kay Curtis, a member of Kobach’s staff, met for about 10 minutes with the students and told them that the office doesn’t do immigration issues. The secretary of state is charged with running Kansas elections and certain business transactions. Kobach said he had other meetings scheduled at the time the students arrived.
Curtis said it was ironic that the students were critical of Kobach spending his own time on immigration issues; and that they wanted him to break from his official duties to listen to their immigration concerns.
Kobach is known nationally for helping to draft laws in Arizona and Alabama cracking down on illegal immigration. He also pushed successfully in Kansas for a law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
Erika Andiola, traveled from Mesa, Ariz., to speak with Kobach, said her family has been affected by passage of laws in her state that Kobach helped write. She said her mother was stopped recently by local police on suspicion of “being too brown.”
“That’s not fair. He needs to do his job and leave us alone,” Andiola said.
Kobach has also filed a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which would allow some children of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States longer as they seek legal status.
To be eligible for deferred deportation applicants must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16, be 30 or younger, be high school graduates or in college, or have served in the military. The immigrants could not have a serious criminal record. Successful applicants can avoid deportation for up to two years and get a work permit.
The plan to halt deportations for as many as 1.7 million illegal immigrants closely mirrors the failed DREAM Act, a bill that would have provided a path to legalization for many of the same immigrants expected to benefit from the government’s deferred action policy. The new policy does not provide legal status for the immigrants.
“The DREAM Act has been proposed in 24 different bills in Congress and it has been rejected every time. If they want to hold a protest in favor of the DREAM Act, they ought to be holding a protest on Capitol Hill,” Kobach said. “They seem more interested in having public officials ignore the law.”