As an integral part of the organized anti-immigrant movement, IRLI is behind the legal strategies attacking DACA recipients, including Crane v. Napolitano, U.S. v. Texas, and Brewer v. ADAC. In recent years, IRLI lawyers have brought several cases to the highest levels of the United States court system. Kris Kobach, IRLI counsel and current Kansas Secretary of State, has implemented anti-immigrant ordinances that have largely been overturned in lawsuits that have cost municipalities millions of dollars. On the eve of President Obama’s announcement of the orders pertaining to DACA+ and DAPA, the Washington Post reported that Kobach had already begun drafting the lawsuit which served as the basis for U.S. v. Texas and the current legal threats DACA now faces.
What is IRLI and what do they do?
- IRLI was founded in 1987 by John Tanton.
- As an integral part of the organized anti-immigrant movement, IRLI, the Tanton network’s litigation arm, has been the primary powerhouse behind most anti-immigrant legislation in localities across the country.
- In recent years, IRLI lawyers have brought several cases to the highest levels of the United States court system. Three cases, masterminded by IRLI counsel and current Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, have been largely unsuccessful and have cost municipalities millions of dollars.
- Despite these failures, IRLI and its attorneys have become a regular presence in the country’s most prominent immigration-related cases.
- In addition to taking on legal battles, IRLI staff also draft legislation and work with lawmakers to flood state legislative dockets with anti-immigrant bills. The most recognizable example is Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, which Kobach co-authored.
- IRLI Counsel and former staff attorney for FAIR Michael Hethmon calls the harsh attrition through enforcement measures drafted and defended by the group “field tests”—experiments to test the legality of different anti-immigrant policies.
- Several of these initiatives have bankrupted local economies and left taxpayers on the hook for massive legal tabs, much of which is ultimately paid to Kobach himself, who offers up his legal services when the measures he authored are taken to court.
- Several other IRLI staffers and board members are employed or have been previously employed by other Tanton groups, such as FAIR President Dan Stein, who serves on IRLI’s board of directors.
How has IRLI Attacked DACA?
- CNC’s report IRLI Beginnings: The Immigration Reform Law Institute and the Anti-Immigrant Origins of United States v. Texas details IRLI’s role in key legal battles on immigration policy over the last decade, and its work to pave the way for the United States v. Texas case. In light of the Paxton-led letter threatening to amend this lawsuit if DACA is not terminated we have included relevant excerpts from the report below:
- IRLI’s counsel Kris Kobach has helped initiate and draft anti-immigrant lawsuits like Crane v. Napolitano, the suit that pitted ICE against President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and set the stage for United States v. Texas.
- Crane v. Napolitano came as a response DACA and was filed on August 23, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, on behalf of 10 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council union, served as lead plaintiff and spokesperson for the ICE agents involved in the case.
- That same day, NumbersUSA announced that it would financially support the legal effort against DACA. In a blog post that reads more as a fundraising appeal than an announcement, NumbersUSA Founder and President Roy Beck said the ICE agents’ legal team would be “funded entirely by NumbersUSA member contributions.” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced his state would join Kobach and NumbersUSA’s lawsuit on October 10, 2012.
- Anti-immigrant leaders once again attempted to use individual states as plaintiffs against former President Obama’s deportation relief programs, as Kobach attempted with Mississippi in Crane, in United States v. Texas.
- On November 22, 2014, two days after President Obama’s announcement, The Washington Post reported that Kobach has already begun drafting a lawsuit.
- Estrada v. Becker: On November 15, 2017 IRLI filed a brief in support of the “right of the University of Georgia system to deny admission to illegal aliens whose deportation has been deferred under the former Obama Administration’s controversial DACA program.”
- U.S. v. Texas: IRLI and FAIR filed a joint amicus brief in support of Texas at the U.S. Supreme Court on August 4, 2016.
- Brewer v. ADAC: IRLI has filed several briefs in support of Arizona in Brewer v. ADAC, currently a pending petition at the U.S. Supreme Court, which has invited the Acting Solicitor General to weigh in on behalf of the United States. Previous litigation in this case centered around the state’s right to issue driver’s licenses with a narrowly defined question regarding the President’s authority to administer immigration policy. Now the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court focuses on the constitutionality of DACA.