The Washington Post, 4/24/12
They were a mismatched pair who somehow managed to rearrange the national immigration debate and the half-shadow world in which illegal immigrants live and work in the United States. One, Kris Kobach, was a telegenic law professor who was worried about foreign terrorists. The other, Michael Hethmon, was a bookish lawyer afraid that immigrants would overburden the environment.
Over the past six years, the two have become the most successful propagators of a powerful idea: that state and local governments can make life so miserable for illegal immigrants that they would choose to deport themselves. During this year’s Republican presidential primary contest, the notion of self-deportation began to take on new legitimacy. Mitt Romney, the party’s presumed nominee, praised the idea and has pledged that he would drop the Obama administration’s challenges to state laws in places such as Alabama and Arizona.
Kobach and Hethmon have helped six states and at least seven cities and counties write tough legislation that allows local police or bureaucrats to crack down on illegal immigrants. Usually, that’s a function reserved for the federal government, but these two lawyers said they knew the “magic words” of legalese to make local laws work.