PHOENIX -- Retirees and other residents from all over the country were among those who donated nearly $500,000 to help Arizona defend its immigration enforcement law, with most chipping in $100 or less, according to an analysis of documents obtained Thusday by The Associated Press.
The donations, 88 percent of which came from through the defense fund's website, surged this week after the federal government sued Tuesday to challenge the law. A document from Gov. Jan Brewer's office showed that 7,008 of the 9,057 online contributions submitted by Thursday morning were made in the days following the government's filing.
Website contributions came from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and nearly 2,000 came from within Arizona. Donations ranged from $5 to $2,000, with the vast majority between $10 and $100.
The Arizona law includes a requirement that police enforcing another law must investigate the immigration status of people if there is "reasonable suspicion" to believe the people are in the United States illegally.
Brewer and other supporters say the law will prompt illegal immigrants to leave the state and that state action was required by a failure of the federal government to secure the border.
Opponents say the law will promote racial profiling and is unconstitutional because regulating immigration is reserved for the federal government.
Donors contacted by the AP said they contributed because the federal government should be helping Arizona, not taking the state to court.
"Arizona needs our help," said Mary Ann Rohde, a retired municipal worker who lives in Rialto, Calif., who donated $20 with her husband. "It's a disgrace what our government is doing."
Howard E. Sanner, of Houston, said Arizona's approval of its law should help prod the federal government to act on border security to help prevent criminals and terrorists from entering the country illegally.
"It's just a mess that has to be straightened out," said Sanner, a retired clothing and linen salesman who said he supports legal immigration and donated $5 to the fund.
With the federal lawsuit, the law enacted in April and set to take effect July 29 is now the subject of six lawsuits now pending in federal court. Other plaintiffs include civil rights groups, individuals and several Arizona municipalities.
Brewer established the Governor's Border Security and Immigration Legal Defense Fund with an executive order on May 26. Her office said the state had received about $10,000 in unsolicited donations from people in dozens of states by then.
It's unclear what the state's legal costs will be in defending the law. Snell & Wilmer, the Phoenix-based law firm representing the state in the pending challenges, told a federal judge Wednesday that its lawyers were working late into the evening to respond to all the filings in the cases.
Citing the crush of filings in the case,
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has imposed limits on the size of so-called "friend of the court" briefs filed by groups in support or opposition to the law.
Brewer hired the private lawyers to represent the state even before the Democratic attorney general, Terry Goddard, agreed to Brewer's demand to withdraw from the state's defense. He had opposed the legislation but said he was willing to do his duty to defend the state law.