When President Obama condemned Arizona’s draconian and potentially unconstitutional immigration law last Friday, he predicted that “if we continue to fail to act [on immigration] at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts to open up across the country.” Indeed, it’s already happening.
Last week, Wonk Room reported on the involvement of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) — the legal arm of a designated nativist-extremist hate group — in drafting Arizona’s controversial immigration law. IRLI lawyer Michael Hethmon boasting about being “approached by lawmakers from four other states who have asked for advice on how they can do the same thing.” In the aftermath of the passage of Arizona’s law, many states and localities across the country are in fact in the middle of or about to embark on copy cat pieces of legislation:
STATEBILLSTATUSUtahRequire immigrants to carry proof of status, require law enforcement officers to question anyone they believe is in the country illegally, and target employers who hire or transport undocumented immigrants.Legislation still has to be drafted, but Rep. Stephen Sandstorm (R) claims he “has the support to do it.”GeorgiaNathan Deal (R), who is running for Governor, wants to propose legislation that mirrors Arizona’s.Tentatively pending Deal’s election.ColoradoToday, Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis (R) said that if he were governor, he would seek to pass something “very similar” to what Arizona enacted.Tentatively pending McInnis’ election.MarylandState Delegate Pat McDonough (R) “plans to start sending a survey to every candidate for the General Assembly — along with the candidates for governor — asking them whether they agree with Arizona’s approach.”McDounough’s survey will start being circulated this week as he hopes to “know who is in favor of the Arizona bill and who is not” by this summer. OhioButler County Sheriff Rick Jones and Ohio Rep. Courtney Combs (R) sent a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland asking him “to employ” his “leadership role” “to assure legislation is passed that will mirror” Arizona’s.Strickland’s press person says he “hasn’t had an opportunity to review Arizona law” and is concerned it might be unconstitutional.North CarolinaLocal anti-immigrant groups claim that lawmakers have told them that “the chances similar legislation will be filed here is over 95%.”The same groups also concede that such legislation wouldn’t “get far” in their state.TexasRepublican state Rep. Debbie Riddle of Tomball says she plans to push for a law similar to Arizona’s.Riddle says she will introduce the measure in the January legislative session.TexasFarmers Branch, a Dallas suburb of 30,000 people, passed an ordinance written by IRLI lawyer Kris Kobach which would prevent landlords from renting houses or apartments to undocumented immigrants.Last month, a U.S. District judge ruled the ordinance unconstitutional. IRLI is helping Farmers Branch repeal the District judge decision.MissouriThe state legislature is considering a law, likely written by Kobach, that would make it unlawful for any person to conceal, harbor, transport, or shelter “illegal aliens” and would also make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to transport themselves.The bill has been referred to the Missouri House International Trade and Immigration Committee.OklahomaRestrict the ability of undocumented immigrants to obtain IDs or public assistance, give police authority to check the status of anyone arrested, and make it a felony to knowingly provide shelter, transportation or employment to the undocumented.After IRLI filed an amicus brief in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of HB 1804, the court refused to reconsider its decision that prohibits Oklahoma from enforcing two of the main parts of HB 1804.NebraskaResidents in Fremont Nebraska likely will vote in July on a proposed ordinance to ban the “harboring,” hiring and renting to undocumented immigrants.Last Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that there was no authority to stop an election on the ordinance following a petition filed by Kobach.
The more controversial and problematic a law is, the more IRLI lawyers stand to make if they’re involved. Since September 2006, Farmer’s Branch has spent $3.2 million on the legal fight and may have to spend an additional $1.13 million. In Arizona, IRLI lawyer Kris Kobach makes about $300 per hour to train Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s officers in immigration matters. Kobach has kept busy because Arpaio is currently the subject of a racial profiling investigation by the Department of Justice and has 2,700 lawsuits sitting on his desk as a result of his immigration policing tactics.
Arizona might be their biggest profit-making venture yet considering the fact that civil rights activists are confident the new law will make it to the Supreme Court and there is even talk of the federal government suing the state of Arizona. However, IRLI’s gain is Arizona’s loss. Not only will Arizona’s legislation cost the state in terms of litigation fees, if the law succeeds in reaching its goal of ridding the state of undocumented immigrants, it’s estimated that Arizona will lose $26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 140,324 jobs.