By Associated Press Writer
updated 7/8/2010 9:52:14 PM ET 2010-07-09T01:52:14

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 Thursday by The Associated Press.

The donations, 88 percent of which came through the Arizona 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, including nearly 2,000 from Arizona. Donations ranged from $5 to $2,000, with the vast majority between $10 and $100.

The AP examined about a quarter of the fund's total contributions, and found only two that came from businesses.

The willingness of thousands of individual Americans to contribute to the Arizona fund illustrates broad concern and frustration over border security and illegal immigration. The state's legislation has since renewed calls for broader immigration changes.

The Arizona law includes a requirement that police enforcing another law generally 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.

Georganna Myer, an Arizona Department of Revenue spokeswoman, said the state tax agency believes contributions to the fund are deductible for Arizona and federal income purposes because they are donations to a state.

Brewer spokeswoman Tasya Peterson said Thursday that donors are required to identify themselves when they submit online contributions. An online form specifies a minimum donation of $5 but does not state a maximum.

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 extra hours to respond to 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.

Snell & Wilmer managing partner John Bouma declined to estimate how much his firm's work would cost and said attorney-client confidentiality precluded him from discussing billing matters.

Peterson, the Brewer spokeswoman, said she did not know whether the state has received an initial bill from the firm.

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.

Alessandra Solar Meetze, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, declined to comment on the fund. The ACLU was among organizations that filed one of the major challenges to the law.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Fleeing Arizona

  1. Transcript of: Fleeing Arizona

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to Arizona , where the federal government is challenging the state's tough new immigration law . Arizona 's governor set up a fund to defend the law. As of today , 9,000 people, mostly from out of state, have contributed a half a million dollars to the effort. Some of those targeted by the new law are not waiting for it to take effect later this summer. They're leaving the state now. NBC 's Lee Cowan has our report.

    LEE COWAN reporting: One way to measure the effect of Arizona 's pending immigration law is the length of this line. It stretches around the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix every day, immigrants trying to figure out not how to stay in Arizona , but how to flee it.

    Mr. LUIS BALENCEA (Arizona Resident): There's a lot of people already leaving for New Mexico , leaving something else, you know.

    COWAN: Anywhere but here.

    Mr. BALENCEA: Anywhere, yeah. Nobody want to stay here.

    COWAN: A look around this once-bustling barrio is telling. The local hair salon has more empty chairs now than customers. The owner is even losing two employees.

    Ms. ROSANA QUINTERO (Salon Owner): People look very sad. And we feel sad, too.

    COWAN: The cafe next door is even emptier.

    Ms. MARIA SIERRA (Business Owner): I ask the people, and they say they afraid to come out.

    COWAN: School numbers are dwindling, too. This one is 75 percent Hispanic . Since the immigration law passed, they've lost more than 100 students.

    Mr. JEFF SMITH (Balsz School District Superintendent): This is sort of the tip of the iceberg . More are waiting until the law goes into effect, and then we'll see more people leaving during the summer.

    COWAN: To the authors of Arizona 's tough new immigration stance, if there is a mass exodus of illegal immigrants , so be it.

    State Senator RUSSELL PEARCE (Republican, Arizona): Kind of a novel idea, you know, people actually aware they may be arrested for breaking the law.

    COWAN: The problem is there really are no hard numbers on the issue. So the

    question critics are asking: Is this exodus a myth or a fact?

    Mr. BILL HART (Arizona State University): We think it's fact. We don't exactly know what's happening, but we know something's happening on a large scale.

    COWAN: For the Bolanos family, they stayed as long as they could.

    Mr. MARCIAL BOLANOS (Arizona Resident): Arizona is a good state, but no more now.

    COWAN: He took his 15-year-old son out of school and is headed back to Mexico , which brings Hugo to tears. But you're really going to miss your friends?

    HUGO: Yeah.

    COWAN: And your school?

    COWAN: It may be months before anyone knows for sure just how many illegal immigrants and their business the law has scared away. Supporters say good riddance, but critics fear the

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