A bnw portrait with a blue overlay with a backdrop of off white described by text in gray and warm red

Kris Kobach

Factsheet: Kris Kobach

Published on 04 Dec 2018

IMPACT: Kris Kobach is the architect of NSEERS, a Bush administration program that registered male immigrants from mainly Muslim-majority countries. Given his advisory role to President Trump, many civil rights groups worry about his desire to have this program, which they consider discriminatory, reinstated.

Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, advises President-elect Trump on immigration and homeland security.

During the Bush administration, Kobach worked in the Justice Department to create the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The registry comprised of immigrants from 24 Muslim-majority countries and North Korea after 9/11. In a post-election meeting with Trump on homeland security, Kobach discussed the reintroduction of the NSEERS program.

NSEERS required all male visa-holders, 16 years and older, from countries designated “havens for terrorists” to register with the government. 24 of the 25 countries were Muslim-majority. The approximately 80,000 people affected were fingerprinted, photographed, interviewed, and required to check in occasionally. At least 13,000 went through deportation proceedings. NSEERS was suspended in 2011 after the Department of Homeland Security said the information provided by the program was redundant. NSEERS received harsh criticism from rights groups that believe it was discriminatory. No one registered by the program was convicted of a terrorism-related charge before deportation.

After Kobach and Trump’s conversations about reinstating NSEERS came to light after the election in late 2016, the Obama administration announced that the program would be dismantled before Trump’s inauguration

During a post-election meeting with Trump, Kobach also recommended halting Syrian refugee resettlement in the US and instituting “extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens.” The topics of these questions — “Sharia law, Jihad, equality of men and women, United States Constitution” — reflect stereotypical concerns about Muslims and indicate that Muslims would be the primary targets of this vetting. Critics consider this vetting plan an ideological or religious test.

Kobach was an attorney with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designates as a hate group.

Viewed as an immigration hardliner by many, he said this about Khizr Khan, the American Muslim citizen who spoke at the 2016 Democratic convention: “It is maddening to be lectured about our Constitution and about what American law should be by aliens in the United States.”

Kobach was also a proponent of anti-Sharia or “foreign law” bills. In 2012, he encouraged the Republican party platform to include a stance against foreign law in US courts. The party adopted the addition amid a broader, concerted campaign by some Republicans to engender concern about Islamic law in America.

Last Updated January 7, 2017