Kobach Declares War on Immigrant Students in Nebraska

Kris Kobach — the Republican running for Kansas Secretary of State — has a single motto in life: if at first you don’t succeed, try again … in another state.

After failing miserably to overturn in-state tuition for undocumented students in his own state, Kobach is suing in Nebraska for his first win on this issue. A case is also pending before the California Supreme Court where Kobach is counting on victory.

What does Kobach have to gain from disabling the mere 43 students in Nebraskan universities who benefit from the in-state tuition bill? With ties to anti-immigrant hate groups such as FAIR, records of illegal voter caging, involvement in the NSEERS program that racially profiled and detained 14,000 individuals of Arab descent, and statements linking him to the extremist birther movement, Kobach seems motivated by a vendetta against immigrants and people of color.

Anti-immigrant groups love to interpret immigration law as a federal ban on in-state tuition, even though only the 3rd District California Appellate Court has made such a finding, with federal courts and even the Supreme Court looking the other way. A couple years back, when the Washington Legal Foundation filed with the Department of Homeland Security against New York and Texas in-state tuition laws for undocumented immigrants, DHS didn’t even bother responding. (For further analysis of the situation, Law Professor Michael Olivas provides an argument against this interpretation, saying that Kobach distorts the meaning of the law and that Congress does not have the authority to regulate purely state benefits.)

Besides, in-state tuition laws do not solely, or even mainly, favor undocumented students. If the California Supreme Court gives Kobach the ruling he desires, more U.S. citizen students would be losing the in-state tuition benefits than undocumented students. So much for fighting “illegal immigration.”

Fear and dis-information are old tools in the nativist arsenal. Kobach does not persist with his frivolous lawsuits on behalf of anti-immigrant organizations because he actually believes he can win. Instead, this tactic of suing states with in-state tuition policies is used mostly as a way to strike fear into other states that might consider granting in-state tuition to immigrant students.

For the sake of all the students — immigrants and U.S. citizens — who benefit from the in-state tuition statutes, lets hope the courts send the anti-immigrants packing once again.

Photo Credit: Official University of Nebraska-Lincoln Site

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