SB-1070 Architect Kris Kobach Has Run Up $6.6 Million In Legal Fees Across The Nation

Last year, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report which showed that the cancellation of events and conventions in Arizona related to the state’s immigration law will result in a loss of $253 million in the state’s economic output and more than $86 million in lost wages over the next two to three years. Today, CAP released a second study which shows that those figures are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the costs associated with passing anti-immigrant legislation at the state and local level. CAP reports:

  • Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the leader of the court fights for local immigration enforcement, is in the tank for at least $2.8 million with some estimates totaling $5 million as it defends its ordinance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Riverside, New Jersey suffered a local economic downturn before the city rescinded its anti-immigrant ordinance and welcomed the return of immigrants.
  • Farmers Branch, Texas, has spent nearly $4 million in legal fees and is expected to spend at least $5 million to defend its anti-immigration statute with no end in sight.
  • Prince William County, Virginia dramatically scaled back a tough immigration statute after realizing the original version would cost millions to enforce and defend in court.
  • Fremont, Nebraska, increased the city’s property tax to help pay the legal fees for its anti-immigration ordinance which it intends to defend.

The report also specifically highlights one figure who has been profiting off of these cities’ woes: Kris Kobach. The activist lawyer and newly elected Kansas Secretary of State has had his hand in just about every piece of anti-immigrant legislation proposed in the nation over the past several years. In the meantime, he has “run up an estimated $6.6 million in fees for his efforts.”

A second report which was released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today describes Kobach as a Harold Hill, the protagonist of the musical The Music Man. “Like Hill…Kobach comes to town with big ideas and a can-do attitude but leaves behind a trail of tears — huge legal bills and unworkable laws coupled with social turmoil,” writes SPLC.

One of Kobach’s colleagues at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) — the legal outfit which employed Kobach as chief legal counsel — has explained in the past that all of these local laws are “field tests,” or experiments which are meant to test the legality of various approaches to immigration enforcement. In other words, the laws Kobach and IRLI have written are specifically designed to invite costly litigation which not only aims to challenge standard notions of what is legally acceptable, they have also made Kobach and his organization a lot of money on the taxpayer’s dime.


Meanwhile, SPLC notes that most of these legal efforts have so far been futile. “The towns that passed nativist laws in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas and Nebraska, along with the state of Arizona, have spent millions of dollars to defend them in court, and almost every judicial decision so far has gone against them.”