US towns that pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment had to raise taxes and borrow to cover the millions in losses

The US is a nation of laws, not men, and that means that unconstituional actions by lawmakers end up being struck down by judges -- so when populist leaders of small towns come to power by promising racist legislation to harass "illegals," everybody loses.

The Washington Post's Chico Harlan tells the stories of six US towns where, over the past decade, racial profiling and surveillance laws have been passed to reduce the presence of Latin American people, who were suspected of being undocumented immigrants. It didn't go well for these towns: they ended up having to raise taxes to fight the legal challenges to their laws, and then, when they lost, had to borrow millions to pay for the court costs and judgments awarded to their opponents from groups like the ACLU.

They did manage to briefly make life hell for brown people, but that didn't stop brown people from coming to town, either.


Trump gets to appoint a Supreme Court judge and the Attorney General, both powerful judicial offices, but neither one is the law unto themselves, and both will be held in check by the Constitution, by the rest of the Supremes, and by Federal and State judges across the nation -- as well as civil rights litigators from the ACLU, EFF, the Southern Poverty Law Center and others.


This has been a week for shock-and-awe from the White House, with one unconstitutional, cruel, grandstanding executive order after another raining down on us. Read about the experiences of these populist leaders who got their asses handed to them and left office in disgrace, and be heartened.

The municipality that has come the closest to successfully implementing such a law is Fremont, a meatpacking town west of Omaha where a six-year court fight, financed through a tax increase, won the city the right to ban undocumented immigrants from rental housing. But just as the city’s officials put the law in place in 2014, they realized it would not be effective: Fremont’s rental applications, with their wording approved by the courts, did not require the information, such as a Social Security number, that could help determine whether a person was in the United States legally.

Courts also have weakened several states’ illegal-immigrant laws, most notably in Arizona. Michael Hethmon, who is senior counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute and helped Kobach handle the Hazleton case, said that the local efforts have faced more setbacks than victories but that the towns’ money has been “well spent” in taking a stance. The towns had no data on the number of undocumented residents before or after the ordinances, making it difficult to measure how well the laws worked in driving away that part of the population...

...The law easily won the city council’s approval, but its enforcement was held up by an injunction and a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups, including the ACLU. In court, some of Barletta’s arguments for the law ran into trouble: He said he didn’t know how many undocumented immigrants lived in Hazleton or how many had committed crimes. The town hadn’t studied it.

A federal judge eventually ruled that the law was illegal because it usurped the federal government’s power and would affect not just undocumented immigrants but “those who look or act as if they are foreign.” Other courts upheld that ruling over eight years. Kobach, paid $250,000 by Hazleton, did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment.

In 2015, a federal judge ordered Hazleton to pay $1.4 million to the lawyers who had fought the town.

The city, with a budget of $9 million, took out a bank loan and cut a check to the ACLU, said Joseph Yannuzzi, the mayor who succeeded Barletta.


In these six American towns, laws targeting ‘the illegals’ didn’t go as planned
[Chico Harlan/Washington Post]

(via Naked Capitalism)