Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Anti-Immigrant Politician Fails to Further Entangle California in Legal Mess

Jill Garvey • Nov 16, 2010

Updated November 17, 2010 - 12:20 P.M.

Kris Kobach, Kansas’ recently elected Secretary of State and long-time attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), failed at another attempt to pass anti-immigrant state legislation focused on university tuition in California. According to the L.A. Times, “The California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that illegal immigrants may continue to be eligible for in-state tuition rates at the state’s colleges and universities rather than pay the higher rates charged to those who live out of state.”

California’s Supreme Court made a sound decision that ultimately protects all of California’s residents from being denied in-state tuition rates. Most importantly perhaps, the Court has also sparred California a costly legal battle. This isn’t the first time Kobach has meddled in the legislation of other states; the results of which have been disastrous. Part of the notorious, anti-immigrant John Tanton Network and its flagship Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), IRLI is the legal arm of the movement to dehumanize immigrants in America.

Fremont, Nebraska is a perfect example of the financial wreckage that follows Kobach wherever he goes. In June 2010, Kobach managed to pass a voter referendum to prevent hiring of or renting to undocumented persons. Kobach spent three years getting this one ordinance passed, an ordinance “largely prepared by the Immigration Reform Law Institute,” according to the City Administrator.

The legal scheming to push the issue to a public vote went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court. If that wasn’t costly enough, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU Nebraska immediately filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of landlords, tenants and employers in Fremont, Nebraska challenging the law because it invites racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear “foreign.”

Folks in Farmers Branch, Texas can relate. Residents were shocked by what happened after the city enacted a similar IRLI ordinance spearheaded by Kobach.  So far, the legal bills to uphold the ordinance stand at $3.3 million and are likely to rise to $5 million.

A similar story can be heard in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, the community that served as guinea pig for IRLI’s local strategy. The city paid out about $5 million to defend its ordinance, either in donations or taxpayer dollars. That’s a lot of taxpayer dollars for a town with a population of just 22,000.

But Kris Kobach won’t be and hasn’t been around when these far-flung cities found themselves on the hook for millions in legal bills defending his ordinances. Instead, Kobach is now the Secretary of State in Kansas, and busy cementing his national reputation among the anti-immigrant crowd for his “successful” state and local strategies by targeting new communities.

Kris Kobach, with the Tanton Network behind him, cares for one thing only: furthering a xenophobic agenda across the U.S.



A word from Fremont, Nebraska re:   “Anti-Immigrant Politician Fails to Entangle California in Legal Mess,” Nov 16, by Jill Garvey.

  • Thank you for Ms. Garvey for your article, especially Hartwig’s comment re: the role of ILRI.
  • FYI - although it may not matter to your readers:  Rather than a “referendum” (separate under Nebraska state law), the Nebraska Supreme Court ordered Fremont to conduct a special election on the “ballot initiative.”
  • The city estimated, before the election, that Fremont’s litigation costs would average $1 million annually, (2-5 year).  The city budget FY2010-2011:  $750,000 property tax increase to pay Kobach and staff to defend in court.  (Kobach continued to offer “pro bono” services while engaging in “contract” negotiations with city.  City Administrator claimed “attorney-client privilege” during open city council meeting in response to a member of the public’s question about how much the city was paying Kobach for his “pro bono” services.)
  • Other Fremont costs. so far:  city services cut (3 full-time staff fired and another staff’s time reduced to balance the city budget); resignation of 3 key city leaders (city council president, city attorney (retired), city administrator) and a number of city council members choose not to run; difficult economic development future with new national reputation in media and unknown tax situation; increased discrimination and harassment targeting Hispanics (3 out of 4 are citizens and legal residents - but 2 year’s worth of “they’re taking over” and “invasion” and many in Fremont believe Hispanic = “illegal.”)  (Lead proponent, former city council member, justified discrimination in ‘letter to editor’ in local paper.)

Again thank you for reporting. If there is additional information we can provide, please feel free to contact.

Kristin Anderson Ostrom, JD
“One Fremont One Future”

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