The legal history of recent anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and four small cities around the country is complicated and can be difficult to understand. What follows is a timeline of key events in each community, along with a synopsis of the law in question and whatever changes may have been made during litigation. Kris Kobach of the Immigration Reform Law Institute helped write and defend all these laws.

July 13, 2006 The Hazleton City Council passes two ordinances proposed by Mayor Lou Barletta that would deny business licenses to those who employ undocumented workers and fine landlords who rent to them.

Aug. 15, 2006 The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Latino Justice PRLDEF, the Community Justice Project of Harrisburg, Pa., and several unaffiliated lawyers file suit against the ordinances. They represent several landlords, business owners and undocumented immigrants who live in Hazleton.

Sept. 3, 2006
Hundreds of opponents rally in Hazleton against the law. Rumors that Klan and racist skinhead groups are coming to counter-protest result in a heavy police presence, but the groups do not show up.

Oct. 31, 2006 The judge grants a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the ordinances. Both parties agree to extend the order until the case is resolved. 

Hazleton anti-immigration rally
Supporters of Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta and his anti-immigrant legislation gathered before City Hall in June 2007.

July 26, 2007 After 9-day bench trial, the judge strikes down both ordinances, writing, "Hazleton, in its zeal to control the presence of a group deemed undesirable, violated the rights of such people, as well as others within the community."

May 1, 2008 Voice of the People USA, listed as a "nativist extremist" group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, stages a "Loyalty Day Immigration Enforcement Rally" in Hazleton.

Sept. 9, 2010 The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the district court decision.

Dec. 8, 2010 Hazleton asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

THE ORDINANCES The Rental Registration ordinance would require tenants to have proof of legal residence and get occupancy licenses in order rent. The Illegal Immigration Relief ordinance would fine landlords $1,000 for each undocumented immigrant tenant, with continuing $100-a-day fines for each day the tenant remained after a citation; and fine employers and revoke their business licenses if they hired undocumented workers. Several changes were made in the laws in a series of so-far unsuccessful attempts to withstand legal challenges.

LEGAL FEES $2.8 million as of last October, according to The Standard Speaker, a Hazleton newspaper (Oct. 10, 2010). Of that, almost $400,000 already had been paid to defense lawyers including Kobach. A court ordered Hazleton to pay another $2.4 million to plaintiffs' lawyers, but the city has appealed that.


July 17, 2006 Valley Park's Board of Aldermen enacts an ordinance similar to that of Hazleton, sanctioning businesses that employ undocumented immigrants and landlords who rent to them.

Sept. 22, 2006 The ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), representing a group of landlords and the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council, sue Valley Park in state court over the ordinance.

Sept. 26, 2006 A judge issues a temporary restraining order barring implementation of the ordinance.

Feb. 14, 2007 Valley Park splits the ordinance into two and redrafts the pair in a bid to withstand legal challenges, while leaving the original ordinance on the books.

March 12, 2007 The judge issues a permanent injunction against the original ordinance, effectively killing it.

March 14, 2007
The plaintiffs file a new suit in state court against the two newer ordinances.

April 5, 2007
The judge in that case grants a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of both new ordinances. Both sides in the case agree the laws will not be enforced pending a final resolution of the case.

May 1, 2007  The case is transferred to federal court.

July 16, 2007
Fearing that it will lose on this issue in court, Valley Park repeals the ordinance providing for sanctions against landlords. Soon after, it narrows the employer-related ordinance so that only employers failing to use E-Verify can be sanctioned.

Jan. 31, 2008 A federal judge in St. Louis rules in favor of Valley Park, allowing the city to enforce what little is left of its law on employers.

June 5, 2009 A federal appeals court unanimously affirms the St. Louis ruling.

THE ORDINANCE The town's original ordinance was similar to the law in Hazleton and included language blaming undocumented immigrants for "higher crime rates" and "overcrowded classrooms and failing schools." But officials rescinded the part relating to sanctions against landlords and narrowed the employer-related part to excuse those who had used E-Verify to check employees' status.

LEGAL FEES $270,000, according to The New York Times (July 21, 2009).


Farmers Branch protestor
Protestor at Farmers Branch City Hall in August 2006

Nov. 13, 2006 The Farmers Branch City Council unanimously adopts an ordinance requiring renters to provide proof of citizenship or legal residency and fining landlords who rent to undocumented immigrants.

Dec. 13, 2006
Opponents of the ordinance, assuming it would be voted down if subjected to a community-wide vote, turn in enough petition signatures to force the city to either repeal the ordinance or schedule a referendum on it. The city decides to go ahead with a referendum.

Dec. 22, 2006 The Bickel & Brewer law firm files a federal lawsuit against the ordinance on behalf of the owners of three apartment complexes. Four days later, the ACLU and MALDEF also sue, representing Latinos who are legal residents.

Jan. 22, 2007 Uncertain that it will withstand legal challenges even if voters approve it, the City Council repeals the first version of the law and adopts a second version, to be put before voters in a May 12 referendum.

May 8, 2007 Mayor Bob Phelps, together with a former mayor and a former city manager, release a letter opposing the ordinance: "We believe this is the worst ordinance ever considered by a Farmers Branch City Council. Continuing this course of action will create a financial and social crisis in our community that will take years to recover from."

May 12, 2007 With nearly 6,000 people voting — the largest turnout in the history of Farmers Branch local elections — the ordinance is approved by 67% of voters.

May 21, 2007
The judge issues a temporary restraining order against the ordinance, writing that the city's "frustration [with federal inaction], no matter how great, cannot serve as a basis to pass an ordinance that conflicts with federal law."

Jan. 22, 2008 In another attempt to fend off legal challenges, the City Council passes a third and final version of the ordinance, which is put on hold pending resolution of the case.

May 28, 2008 The judge issues a permanent injunction against the second version of the ordinance. He calls the third version "yet another attempt to circumvent the court's prior rulings and further an agenda that runs afoul of the United States Constitution," and refuses the city's request that he rule on its constitutionality in advance of implementation. 

Aug. 29, 2008 Farmers Branch officials announce they will begin to enforce the third version in 15 days.

Sept. 3, 2008
Bickel & Brewer files a new lawsuit against the latest ordinance. Nine days later, MALDEF and the ACLU also sue.

Sept. 12, 2008 The judge in the new lawsuit issues a temporary restraining order barring implementation of the ordinance.

March 24, 2010 The judge issues a permanent injunction against the law.

Jan. 3, 2011 Farmers Branch appeals to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

THE ORDINANCE  Like Hazleton's, the original Farmers Branch ordinance would require renters to provide proof of citizenship or legal residency. Landlords would be fined up to $500 a day per offense. There was no provision affecting business owners. The ordinance has been revised twice.

LEGAL FEES $3.7 million, according to the Dallas Morning News (Jan. 5, 2011). The cost of further appeals may run into the millions.


Fremont Mayor Donald “Skip” Edwards
Fremont Mayor Donald “Skip” Edwards cast the tie-breaking “no” vote that killed a proposed anti-immigrant law. But the town’s voters forced a referendum and passed the law anyway.

July 29, 2008 After a heated public hearing, a sharply divided City Council votes against enacting a proposed ordinance that would sanction employers of undocumented immigrants and landlords who rent to them. Shortly after that, a coalition of Fremont citizens who support the proposed law begins to circulate a petition to force a special referendum on it.

Feb. 23, 2009 Residents turn in enough signatures to trigger a referendum.

June 21, 2010 Fremont's voters approve the ordinance.

July 21, 2010 The ACLU and MALDEF file a federal lawsuit against the law on behalf of Latino residents and a landlord.

July 27, 2010 The City Council votes to suspend implementation of the ordinance pending the outcome of litigation.

Sept. 8, 2010 The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hears testimony from five panelists about Fremont's ordinance. Four, including Police Chief Tim Mullen, oppose the law. Anti-ordinance activist Kristin Ostrom presents a report on 65 incidents of threats and harassment directed at Latinos in the town.

Sept. 15, 2010 The City Council raises property taxes to pay for anticipated costs associated with the litigation.

The Fremont ordinance is similar to the original laws in Hazleton and Farmers Branch, covering both landlords and employers.

LEGAL FEES Litigation over the ordinance is ongoing, but Fremont officials in August 2010 said they expected to have to pay at least $750,000 in legal fees and expenses, even though Kobach has said his own work is being done pro bono. Further hearings in the case are already scheduled for early this year.


Jan. 13, 2010 Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, a man who once forwarded a neo-Nazi tract to colleagues via E-mail, introduces the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Senate Bill 1070).

March 27, 2010 Arizona resident Robert Krentz is found shot to death on his ranch near the Mexican border hours after calling his brother to say he was helping a person he believed to be an undocumented immigrant. Suspicions that Krentz's killer was a Mexican drug smuggler fuel support for the bill.

April 13, 2010 The Arizona House of Representatives passes the bill. "There are some things that states can do and some things states can't do," Kobach says, "but this law threads the needle perfectly."

April 19, 2010 The Arizona Senate passes the bill.

April 23, 2010 Gov. Jan Brewer signs the new law. Thousands gather at the state Capitol, some supporting and some protesting the law. Police intervene to prevent violence.

May 1, 2010 Tens of thousands of people protest the law in more than 70 cities around the country, including a Los Angeles rally that draws as many as 60,000.

May 12, 2010 The Los Angeles City Council approves a boycott barring the city from doing business with Arizona unless the law is repealed. It is the largest of many boycotts by launched by cities and various groups.

May 17, 2010 Civil rights groups including the ACLU, MALDEF and the National Immigration Law Center file a federal class-action suit against the law on behalf of community service organizations, labor unions, business associations and others.

June 22, 2010 Mexico files a friend of the court brief asserting that "S.B. 1070 adversely impacts U.S.–Mexico bilateral relations, Mexican citizens and other people of Latin-American descent present in Arizona."

July 6, 2010 The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) files its own federal suit against Arizona, arguing that most clauses of S.B. 1070 are preempted by federal law.

July 28, 2010 The day before the law is to go into effect, the federal judge in the DOJ case issues a preliminary injunction barring implementation of the law's most controversial provisions. Those include requiring that officials try to determine the immigration status of anyone detained if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the country unlawfully; mandating that non-citizens carry immigration papers at all times; barring undocumented immigrants from seeking work; and allowing law enforcement officials to arrest non-citizens where there is reason to believe they have committed an offense that makes them "removable" from the United States.

July 29, 2010 Arizona appeals the judge's ruling.

Nov. 1, 2010 Judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco hear arguments over the lower court judge's preliminary injunction.

THE STATUTE S.B. 1070 requires local and state officials to try to ascertain the immigration status of anyone they come into "legitimate contact" with if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is not a legal resident. It makes it a crime for undocumented workers to seek work or trespass on private or public lands, and also criminalizes hiring workers from a stopped car. The law makes transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of at least $1,000; if the offense involves 10 or more immigrants, it becomes a felony.

LEGAL FEES More than $1 million as of the end of July 2010, according to the governor's office. Arizona has not released later figures.