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Arizona immigration law heads to court, with $1.2 million war chest

First of seven lawsuits against tough Arizona immigration law is heard Thursday in federal court in Phoenix. Money from private donors across the US has flowed into a defense fund for the statute.

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Brewer and her backers say Arizona had to act because the federal government has failed to secure the border, but critics say the law will encourage racial profiling and is unconstitutional because enforcing immigration laws is a federal duty, not a state responsibility.

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It is difficult to accurately estimate how much legal costs will total, says Paul Senseman, Brewer’s communications director. “It depends on many variables including the outcome of the cases, possible appeals, if new cases are filed, if the federal government continues to sue the state, etc.”

Arizona’s defense rests in the hands of private lawyers. Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat who opposes the law, withdrew from representing the state in court after continuing clashes with Brewer, a Republican. Both are running for governor.

Brewer hired Snell & Wilmer LLC, a corporate law firm based in Phoenix, to defend the state. Chairman John Bouma says attorneys are working long hours on behalf of the state. Adjusted hourly rates for the state’s primary attorneys vary from $225 to $450 per hour, according to the firm’s contract with the state.

Thursday’s lawsuit before US District Judge Susan Bolton was filed by Phoenix police officer David Salgado. Various organizations, including immigrant-advocacy groups and the ACLU, filed subsequent legal challenges. The Justice Department suit contends that the law interferes with federal authority, and attorneys for both sides will argue that case before Judge Bolton on July 22. [Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph misidentified the plaintiff in the case being heard Thursday, July 15.)