On Sunday, Kris Kobach showed us his papers—and civil liberties groups now want him out.
Of contention for Trump’s cabinet, that is.
Kobach tipped his hand accidentally Monday afternoon as he posed for a photo with Donald Trump as he headed into their meeting at the mogul’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. The Topeka Capital-Journal noticed that Kobach was holding a stack of papers, and that much of the text on the first paper was visible in the AP photo.
The words “strategic plan for first 365 days” were clearly visible on the page—on what appeared to be a plan, if Trump picks him to head the Department of Homeland Security. That plan would re-start a post-9/11 registry of certain immigrants, ask “high-risk aliens” if they support Shariah law and believe in equality between men and women, and stop the U.S. from taking in any Syrian refugees.
It’s a plan that has human rights groups ready to mobilize. Naureen Shah, the director of national security and human rights for Amnesty International USA, told The Daily Beast that her group would look to organize protests against Kobach’s plans if he gets a chance to implement them.
“We will create the public pressure and international community pressure to make these kinds of proposals untenable,” said Shah.
Shah said Kobach’s preliminary goals seemed designed to stoke fear of Muslims by reimplementing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, for short, that was put in place after 9/11 to monitor men from certain Muslim-majority countries who came to the United States.
“When you see that as a package—NSEERS, the so-called extreme vetting, and the shutdown of the refugee program—that package deal, to govern based on bigotry and fear-mongering about the Muslim other, is an astounding way to start,” she added.
Even the suggestion to re-up NSEERS drew pointed criticism from refugee and immigration advocates.
At the time it was first implemented, Critics argued it was a de facto registry of Muslim immigrants, and that it didn’t do anything to make the country safer. It was partially rolled back in 2003 and suspended in 2011,according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Katherine Tactaquin, the executive director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said Kobach’s ideas could mean going back to the post-9/11 norm.
“Obviously that’s going to target Muslims,” she said. “It’s another way of doing that without specifically saying, ‘We’re identifying Muslims.’”
It isn’t clear if that kind of targeting would survive a court challenge today, according to Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert for the libertarian Cato Institute.
“We don’t know what the answer would be in a modern court,” he said. “But under current interpretation it’s fine.”
But just because Kobach’s ideas might withstand legal scrutiny doesn’t mean they would reduce the risk of terror attacks in the U.S.
“If it actually increased security then that would be a good argument for it,” he said. “But it didn’t work under the Bush administration.”
The government already had a list of people who legally entered the U.S., he noted, so the additional NSEERS surveillance and monitoring was largely redundant.
But don’t expect that to stop Trump and Kobach, he added.
“This is a sign that he’s going to follow through with what he said he wanted to do on the campaign trail,” he said.