Out-of-staters fuel fight over Arizona immigration law
Arizona is attracting millions in out-of-state donations to defend its tough immigration law. Far-flung immigrant rights groups, too, are helping to make the state a test bed for the reform fight.
Wyoming resident Timothy Mellon has no special ties to Arizona. But from his vantage point hundreds of miles away, he deemed the border state's struggles with illegal immigration a cause worthy of a $1.5 million contribution.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Mellon prefers not to elaborate on his reasons for injecting himself into the illegal immigration debate raging in Arizona and spilling across America. But he made clear his unflinching support for the state's attempts to battle illegal immigration through a new tough law that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed in April, which is now tied up in court.
Although Mellon's recent donation is the largest in the $3.6 million fund to fend off legal challenges, money keeps pouring in from virtually every state. For example, online contributions totaled $11,000 in the first week of September, and during that period donations coming from Arizona ranked fifth behind those from California, New York, Florida, and Texas.
Mellon, who splits his time between the communities of Saratoga and Laramie, is among scores of out-of-staters influencing the debate on both sides. From the busing of people here to protest or support the law to the boycotts of various cities against it and the donations to Governor Brewer's legal defense fund, people living outside Arizona are helping to frame policy in a state largely viewed as a laboratory for immigration reform.
Some Arizonans are less than thrilled with all the outside attention.
"I resent outsiders coming in and trying to tell us what to do, on one hand," says Marshall Trimble, Arizona's state historian. "On the other hand, I understand it's all part of the American system.
"When people feel [strongly] about their cause, whichever side it is, they're going to come in and try to influence it."
The lawsuit the Obama administration filed in July against Arizona's statute – which mandates state and local police officers to determine the legal status of people stopped for other infractions – appears to have boosted intervention from those living outside the state's borders, Mr. Trimble notes.
"Nobody likes to think the government is bullying one of its states," he says.
The federal government's legal challenge, one of several, was the key factor for the involvement of "tea party" faithfuls in the Arizona debate.
"That's what the tea party is most interested in, protecting states' rights and making sure the federal government lives within bounds set by the Constitution," says Greg Holloway, who is on the board of the Austin Tea Party Patriots.
He and other Texans have traveled to Arizona to rally in support of the state law and to work to counteract the effect of national boycotts. They did so not just to protect Arizona's right to enact its own legislation, but also to try to effect change to US immigration laws that Mr. Holloway says should be streamlined to bring in only productive, law-abiding immigrants.