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Donors Send Millions to Defend AZ Immigration Law


The law which sparked debate over states' rights and propelled the topic of illegal immigration to the forefront of national politics is heading to court. Since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, the state has been targeted with lawsuits from individuals and civil-rights groups. Fortunately for Arizonans, they aren't alone in covering the legal costs defending the law. According to the Wall Street Journal, donors from across the country have contributed more than $3.5 million to help defend the law cracking down on illegal immigration.

In a case that could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the governor's office says it has collected one large donation -- from Timothy Mellon, an heir to a Pittsburgh steel and banking dynasty -- and thousands of small donations from across the country. Political candidates in more than 25 states have reportedly signaled support for their own states to draft similar laws if elected. But in Arizona, the political divide threatened the state's legal defense:

The state is represented by Snell & Wilmer, a big Phoenix law firm that is charging $225 to $450 an hour. Ms. Brewer tapped outside counsel after Mr. Goddard, her Democratic rival in the gubernatorial election, expressed reservations about defending the law against the suits, according to the governor's spokesman.

A spokesman for Mr. Goddard said he stepped aside after the Arizona legislature enacted a statute that deprived him of the authority to defend SB1070 in court and gave the governor the authority to hire outside counsel.

More than 42,000 people have contributed to the border state's legal battle over its the right to enforce the law, including Mellon who donated $1.5 million himself:

Mr. Mellon's contribution is an anomaly. Through Sept. 9, the latest date for which information is available, most of the donations have been small, many between $20 and $100. Sympathizers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have contributed to the fund. Most of the individual online contributions have come from Arizona, followed by California, Texas, Florida and New York.

The federal government is also taking legal action to stop the law.  In early July, the Obama administration filed its own lawsuit against Arizona, claiming the state had "crossed a constitutional line" and was interfering with federal authority over immigration enforcement.  According to the WSJ, most of the out-of-state donations began pouring into the state after that suit was filed.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the Obama administration's suit beginning Monday.  Meanwhile, Gov. Brewer says she's prepared for a fight all the way to the Supreme Court, a level that would cost the state exponentially more in legal fees.

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