SB 1070 Legal Defense Funds Running Dry

Apr 22, 2014

The donations to defend the state’s controversial 2010 immigration law are running out. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer took a closer look.

The border wall between Arizona and Mexico
Credit Michel Marizco, KPBS

Gov. Jan Brewer set up the Border Security Fund in the wake of approval of SB 1070 and the lawsuits that followed. To date, she has collected more than $3.8 million. But, records obtained by Arizona Public Radio show that more than $3 million of that has gone to the Phoenix law firm of Snell & Wilmer for its various attempts — mostly unsuccessful — to defend the statute in federal court.

The one time the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take a closer look the justices found three of the provisions of the law were unconstitutional. But, they did agree to let the state enforce a fourth which requires police to question those they have stopped about their immigration status if there is reason to believe they are in the country illegally. That court fight cost another $400,000 paid to attorney Paul Clement who argued the case before the justices.

At this point, more than 90 percent of what’s been donated has been spent, with less than $310,000 remaining in the account. And there are several cases still outstanding. When that money runs out it will be up to Brewer to either seek more contributions or have the state’s taxpayers pick up the tab.