New SPLC Report: Nativist Laws Cost Towns Millions, Inflame Racism

Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a new report, “When Mr. Kobach Comes to Town: Nativist Laws & the Communities They Damage.” The report analyzes the disastrous aftermath for communities that have enacted local ordinances aimed at punishing undocumented immigrants. Last year, the first statewide version of these laws was passed in Arizona. Several other states and communities are also considering such legislation.

The report examines the role of Kris Kobach, the lawyer most responsible for these ordinances. For the better part of the past six years, Kobach has been chief legal counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The SPLC lists FAIR as a hate group because of its promotion of white nationalism and its longstanding ties to prominent white supremacists.

In addition to the Arizona statute, Kobach helped write and defend nativist ordinances in Hazleton, Pa.; Valley Park, Mo.; Farmers Branch, Texas; and Fremont, Neb.

For those communities who have worked with Kobach, the results have been devastating. As the new SPLC report documents, these harsh anti-immigrant laws have burdened taxpayers with millions in legal expenses and destroyed the business climate and downtown business districts in these communities.

The four towns and one state examined in this report also saw a crisis in race relations as conflicts between Latino immigrants and mostly white natives escalated. Latinos reported being threatened, shot at, subjected to racial taunts and more. Angry protests and counter-protests have rocked one town after another. Pro-immigrant activists have been threatened with notes that promise to "shed blood" to "take back" communities. For these communities, the aftermath of these laws has simply been a trail of tears.