May 5, 2011; Source: Arizona Capitol Times | The generosity of America’s charitable donors! More than $3.5 million has gone to address the issue of immigration into the nation’s border states. Oh, that’s the $3.7 million slated for the Border Security and Illegal Immigration Defense Fund established by Arizona governor Gov. Jan Brewer to defend SB 1070, the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” – the state’s legislation that put Arizona in the forefront of states taking aim at undocumented immigrants in place of the federal government’s function.

Brewer established the Fund just about one year ago (PDF), in part because Arizona’s Attorney General Terry Goddard had informed Brewer that he would not defend the legislation against litigation. Donations are accepted online by the Governor’s Office, though the state “provides no opinion as to whether donations to the Border Security and Immigration Legal Defense fund are deductible for federal income tax purposes. A donor may wish to consult a tax professional for advice.”

Litigation has certainly ensued. Challenges have been filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and many other organizations and individuals. As of this past February when Arizona filed a counterclaim against the Department of Justice, there had been more than 2,000 filings and 56 amicus briefs received by the federal courts on SB 1070 cases.

So here is the scenario. A state like Arizona passes an anti-immigration law that gets promoted by conservative cable TV and talk radio, but most experts think is a non-starter and likely unconstitutional, violating the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Because the legislation is, in the view of most legal scholars, likely to be overturned, one would think that the state government might think twice before pursuing such an ideological chimera which will only result in unplanned government expenditures – unless charitably-minded anti-immigrant donors can be convinced to donate money to the state’s half-baked legal odyssey.

Even though it isn’t clear that donations to the fund may be federal charitable tax deductions, the fund operates like a 501(c) entity and does not release the names of the donors or the amounts they donated. We know that 33,438 donors gave $1,546,493 online on their credit cards, but we don’t know who they or the other 11,000 donors who contributed $2.2 million offline to pay the government’s legal costs might be.

We don’t know who is giving the money, but we know who is benefiting: So far, law firms have raked in $1.9 million from the Governor’s fund in legal fees.—Rick Cohen