Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Partners with Nativist Extremist Kris Kobach, Arizona ADL Blasts Both

As disturbing as the prospect is of a nativist extremist lawyer like Kris Kobach training all 881 of Sheriff Joe's beigeshirts in immigration law, I have to wonder if it's a sign that Arpaio's throwing in the towel on the big Melendres vs. Arpaio racial-profiling lawsuit now underway in federal court.

What, was Stormfront's Don Black not available? Maybe Tom Metzger could take a break from running his white nationalist Web site The Insurgent to come down and offer some words of supremacist wisdom to Joe's benighted deputy dawgs. And don't forget David Duke, that cat's always lookin' for a gig.

I kid, of course. Being an attorney, Kobach's ties to anti-immigrant and extremist nativist organizations are far more white collar, with the emphasis on white. The controversial University of Missouri law prof acts as counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR, the notorious Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tagged FAIR as a hate organization, and FAIR's earned the title. Last April, when Kobach was announced as a minority witness before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee during the committee's hearing into the 287(g) program and Joe Arpaio, the SPLC hit the committee with a letter objecting to Kobach's presence because of his ties to FAIR

Regarding FAIR, the SPLC's Mark Potok had this to say:

FAIR is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes annual listings of such organizations. Among the reasons are its acceptance of $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a group founded to promote the genes of white colonials that funds studies of race, intelligence and genetics. FAIR has hired as key officials men who also joined white supremacist groups. It has board members who write regularly for hate publications. It promotes racist conspiracy theories about Latino immigrants. It has produced television programming featuring white nationalists. 

And John Tanton, the man who founded the group in 1979, has a long personal history of associating with white nationalists.  In a 1993 letter to Garret Hardin, a committed eugenicist who promoted pseudo-scientific ideas of racial purity, Tanton wrote candidly: "I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that."

The committee ultimately allowed Kobach to speak, but the stigma Kobach carries with him both precedes and hounds him. In 2004, he ran as a Republican against Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore, and was spanked hard, losing by 11 percent to Moore in Kansas' largely Republican 3rd District. One reason he lost, according to The Road to Congress 2004 was because, "in general, Kobach was accused of taking money from a white supremacist organization, and the charge stuck." Currently, Kobach is vying to be Kansas' Secretary of State.

Kobach also served under Attorney General John Ashcroft during the Bush administration. There he developed a controversial program to profile Muslim men from certain countries and track them while in the U.S. 

Kobach is also the proponent of a near-mystical nativist legal concept: that local cops have the inherent authority to enforce all federal statutes. Most legal scholars find this idea laughable, but folks like Arpaio and Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce cling to it like a life preserver in choppy waters.

When Arpaio lost his 287(g) street authority last year, he kept referring to a little known law that allowed him to continue to pursue Hispanics sans papers. In fact, unbeknownst to him, he was referring to this bankrupt legal theory that Kobach is known for pimping. Now Kobach will be writing a legal opinion to rationalize Arpaio's racial profiling, and schooling MCSO goons in how to be bigots and get away with it.

For Bill Straus, the Arizona ADL's Regional Director, Arpaio's hiring of Kobach demonstrates that Arpaio "is not serious with the concerns that have been raised about his tactics and treatments of immigrants...It's difficult to interpret this as anything but an affront to the federal government, the community at large, and certainly the Hispanic community." 

(Straus denounced the Kobach-Arpaio relationship in a press release yesterday. You can read the release in its entirety, here.)

There is one other way to interpret it: Arpaio already assumes that he will lose the racial-profiling lawsuit Melendres vs. Arpaio, and that the U.S. Justice Department will conclude an investigation that finds that the MCSO has violated civil rights. 

I mean, why invite Kris Kobach to town to be your guru when by dong so, you give the plaintiffs in Melendres as well as the U.S. Justice Department more evidence of claims against you? By doing so, Arpaio also proves the point I made last year about his ties to various extremist organizations. There is a connection, and Arpaio exploits it when he can.

But at this point, what does it gain Arpaio having Kobach as his counselor? Kobach is also a notorious loser, both in court and on the campaign trail. And whatever "advice" he gives Joe's deputies will in all likelihood not stand up to a court challenge.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons