Former Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, suggested Tuesday night that the U.S. government should create what he called “processing towns” for asylum-seekers at the Southern border.
In an appearance on Fox Business Channel, Kobach told host Lou Dobbs that the government should use “the thousands of empty mobile home trailers” it currently owns to “create processing towns [in Southern border cities] that are confined.” Kobach went on to refer to his proposed “processing towns” as “camps.”
“We process them right there, in that camp, where they have the three square meals, they’re living in a nice mobile home, and then as soon as they’re done, as soon as the claim is rejected, they’re on the next plane back home,” Kobach said.
According to Xavier Torres de Janon, a law student and Bay Area member of the immigration rights organization Mijente, non-citizen immigrants seeking asylum status are first processed through Customs and Border Protection and then transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. After a period in ICE detention, asylum applications are processed through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Torres de Janon explained.
“In the past, this was very straightforward because not as many immigrants were being funneled [through the process],” Torres de Janon told Fortune.. “They might spend 12 hours in [CBP custody] and then maybe 72 hours in an ICE detention center.” Previously, it was easier for migrants to be released while awaiting a court date.
But in recent years, the process has changed and people can end up stuck in custody for months or even years.
“Now the government is saying there’s ‘too many migrants, it’s too expensive, they are all dangerous criminals’,” Torres de Janon said. “The administration is xenophobic so [these migrants are] being held at the border.”
Some people pointed out Kobach’s use of the word “camp,” and compared his proposal to concentration camps. Immigration rights advocates were similarly outraged last year when the Trump administration built detention centers for migrant children along the Southern border.
Fernando Garcia, the executive director of Border Network for Human Rights, an El Paso-based advocacy organization, compared a detention facility for migrant children in Tornillo, Texas, to the internment of Japanese Americans in camps between 1942 and 1945. Garcia told the Guardian the camps are a tactic to “dehumanize immigrants.”
“They are literal camps,” said Torres de Janon, who added that food is often limited, as is access to medical care.
President Trump recently threatened to shut down the Southern border altogether. “We’re going to have a strong border or we’re going to have a closed border,” he told reporters at the White House Tuesday.
His administration is reportedly considering Kobach for a position in his administration as “immigration czar,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Kobach’s connections to far-right activists, and white nationalism in particular, have been well-documented. The former Kansas politician was seen rubbing shoulders with white nationalist activist Marcus Epstein in 2017. He also helped write anti-immigrant legislation in the late 2000s while working with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the SPLC designated a hate group with ties to white nationalism.
While working with FAIR’s legal team, Kobach helped write Arizona Senate Bill 1070 that allowed police officers to racially profile and detain people they suspected were undocumented immigrants. The law also made it a misdemeanor if non-citizen immigrants did not carry immigration papers on their person.