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The Three Attorneys General Races that will have Huge Consequences for National Immigration Policy

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Looking to provide the fuel for the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline, the Republican Attorney General candidates in Texas, Arizona, and Kansas could shape national immigration policy for the worse. 


Ken Paxton (R-TX), Kris Kobach (R-KS), and Abe Hamadeh (R-AZ) are putting nativism at the forefront of their campaigns, but if they win in November, they will push their anti-immigrant agenda through the courts and onto the nation as a whole. As Attorneys General, they will try to bring back show-me-your-papers laws,” block protections or pathways to legal status for our undocumented neighbors, and even make it near impossible for new migrants to enter the country through legal channels. 

While it has been long settled that immigration policy is the federal government’s prerogative, Paxton, Kobach, and Hamadeh will take legally dubious statewide anti-immigrant legislation to court in an attempt to allow each state to add to the chaos and cruelty of the current system. And they will mount legal challenges to any attempt by the Biden Administration to address the broken immigration system. The former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, David Leopold, coined this strategy as the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline that travels from “Republican Attorneys General to hand-picked United States District Court Judges.”

In the context of the pipeline, GOP extremism, and the threats to immigrant communities, here is what you need to know about the three worst Republican Attorneys General on the ballot this November: 

Ken Paxton (Texas)


Ken Paxton is in a league of his own when it comes to using his office to attack immigrants. He’s also, by far, the most corrupt Attorney General in the country. He is the primary user of the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline. Paxton started his work attacking Obama’s executive immigration actions in 2015, filing cases Federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas. Paxton hand-picked Hanen because he would he knew the Judge would be a reliable ally in the attack on immigrants — and he was. 

Paxton was instrumental in pressuring the Trump administration. In late June of 2017, Paxton notified the Trump Administration that he would sue them if they did not end DACA by the arbitrary date of September 5. Trump ended DACA on September 5, but had then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions make the announcement. Sessions wouldn’t say whether he worked with Paxton, but Paxton wasn’t so circumspect. When Politico asked Paxton about his role in DACA’s recision that he wasn’t shy about it and was quite proud:

Politico: Were you in touch with the Trump administration about ending DACA before you sent the letter? 

Paxton: Yeah, we had some back-and-forth conversations….

Politico: Did you contact the Justice Department about ending DACA?

Paxton: We talked to them some….

Since then, Paxton has utilized his fellow GOP hacks on the federal bench to block a wide range of progressive policies and has been doggedly trying to end DACA. In 2018, Paxton returned to Hanen’s court, to file a lawsuit seeking to end DACA. 

After the Fifth Circuit ruling that DACA was “illegal,” Paxton tweeted, “BREAKING: TX wins big against lawless, open-borders Biden Admin at the 5th Circuit. The appeals court just AFFIRMED my team’s trial court win. DACA—part of Dems’ program to flood our country with aliens—is illegal & will stay enjoined. Huge victory for the Rule of Law in America!

The absolute gall of Paxton to talk about the “Rule of Law in America!” when, again, he’s arguably one of the most corrupt politicians in the country.  First, there’s his 2015 indictment for felony securities fraud, for which he’s managed to avoid trial for seven years. Then, there’s the ongoing FBI corruption investigation, instigated by his own staff,  who “reported to law enforcement that their boss engaged in crimes including bribery and abuse of office, according to an internal letter.” He was also a prominent speaker at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” event on Ellipse, which preceded before insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

We also recently learned from the Associated Press that Paxton’s staff this month “quietly dropped a series of human trafficking and child sexual assault cases after losing track of one of the victims, a stumble in open court emblematic of broader dysfunction inside one of America’s most prominent law offices.”

And, there was his recent flight from a process server in a federal district case brought by abortion funds about Paxton’s plans to enforce aspects of the Texas abortion ban. This week, a federal judge ordered Paxton to testify, “It is challenging to square the idea that Paxton has time to give interviews threatening prosecutions but would be unduly burdened by explaining what he means to the very parties affected by his statements.”  The judge also wrote, “The Court will not sanction a scheme where Paxton repeatedly labels his threats of prosecution as real for the purposes of deterrence and as hypothetical for the purposes of judicial review.”

Paxton really is in a league of his own. He uses the power of his office to persecute and attack immigrants while dodging the law and his own corruption.

Abe Hamadeh (Arizona)


Celebrating the attack on DACA from the U.S. Supreme court, Abe Hamadeh bragged to Newsmax that these sorts of attacks are “exactly why State AGs are so much more powerful than ever before. We’re leading the charge against Washington D.C. right now.” Making explicit his intent to attempt to make federal immigration policy through the office, he hopes to win. 

Hamadeh is reportedly the child of undocumented immigrants who were ordered to leave the country before the charges were dropped and they became naturalized citizens. Now, Hamadeh is running an aggressively nativist campaign that echoes white nationalist conspiracy theories. His campaign viciously attacks those in similar circumstances as his parents and promises to strip the very protections that allowed them to remain in the country.

Hamadeh has run two campaign ads that employ the deadly conspiracy theory that the non-white migrants and asylum seekers constitute an “invasion.” A racist lie that inspired several domestic terrorists to murder dozens of Americans from Charlottesville in 2017, to Pittsburgh in 2018, to El Paso in 2019, to the Capitol in 2021, and in Buffalo in May of this year. Yet, Hamadeh believes amplifying this rhetoric in spite of its deadly downstream consequences will help him secure the power to turn this racist fever dream into policy. 

Hamadeh campaigned closely with the Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who promised to declare migrants an invading force on day one. A promise that Lake points to the current Attorney General issued a favorable opinion on despite any real legal rationale. Hamadeh also outlined the same baseless invasion conspiracy as the current Attorney General, writing:

“I no longer accept that what’s going down at the border is an ‘immigration’ problem where only the federal government has authority — our border is being invaded — it’s a state sovereignty and national security issue. As Attorney General, I will declare war”.

If Lake follows through on her day-one promise, Hamadeh will defend an extremely dangerous position to use war powers against asylum seekers. A policy that could have devastating immediate and long-term consequences for U.S. citizens and migrants alike based on the color of their skin or the accent they speak with. 

While the declaration doesn’t have any sensible legal foundation, it could be the pretext to challenge Arizona v the United States (2012) under the new far-right composition of the United States Supreme Court. The 2012 decision overturned Arizona’s draconian show-me-your-papers law and reasserted the federal government’s primacy in immigration enforcement. Their underlining long-term strategy here isn’t a secret. The Executive Order from Texas Governor Greg Abbott that pushed the line of an invasion declaration explicitly expressed as a challenge to that Supreme Court case. A reversal of the 2012 decision could result in the widespread adoption of draconian anti-immigrant masseuses in red states.

Alongside the “invasion declaration,” the war language that Hamadeh also amplifies in his TV commercials absurdly claiming “our border is a warzone; we need a soldier to fix it,” cultivates the conditions where vigilantes will likely feel justified in taking matters into their own hands. This isn’t just hyperbole of a heated election, but deadly serious concern from someone who is asking to be the chief law enforcement officer in the state. 

It is also worth noting that Hamadeh may have broken several laws during his campaign. 


Kris Kobach (Kansas) 


Kris Kobach is an anti-immigrant zealot who has been peddling his nativist agenda for decades. Now, he hopes to use Kansas tax dollars to fund this culture war fight in the courts. Kobach is a committed ideologue that isn’t bothered by the facts against his arguments, but he is also just a bad lawyer. 

In defending an onerous proof of citizenship law that required excess documentation to register to vote, the U.S. District Judge who provided over the case forced Kobach to attend remedial legal classes after his shockingly bad performance in court. Well before the GOP adopted the Big Lie, Kobach had been pushing the fiction about widespread voter fraud. A lie to cover his desire to erect barriers to voting in Kansas and throughout the nation precipitated his losing court battle. 

In 2012, Kobach led the political effort dressed up as a legal challenge to DACA that went nowhere. Before his attack on DACA, Kobach had a long track record of nativist failure. He left behind a trail of anti-immigrant legislative failures that cost states and local municipalities tens of millions of dollars across the country. Failures of Kobach left Valley Park, MO, a town of 6,500, paying some $270,000 in legal fees, Hazelton, PA, a town of about 24,000 paying $1.38 million in fees, Fremont, NE, a town of 26,000 people, spent about $104,000, and Farmers Branch TX,  a town of about 29,000 spent more than $6.1 million.

On the state level, Kobach wrote the infamous Arizona SB 1070, the “show me your papers law.” A report found that S.B. 1070 in its first year alone cost an estimated $253 million in economic output, $9.4 million in tax revenues, and 2,761 jobs. Kobach also wrote Alabama HB 56, an even more extreme version of Arizona’s law. Samuel Addy from the University of Alabama estimated that HB 56 could cost 70,000 jobs and a $20 million loss in local sales tax collections.

All the while Kobach was pushing his costly nativist agenda across the country, he was collecting a paycheck from the legal arm of the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Founded by John Tanton, who believed in eugenics and racial superiority, FAIR is a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group. 

Kobach’s connections with far-right militias, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers run deep. Now, he hopes the weight of the state will be put to hoist his anti-democratic and nativist politics on Kansas and the nation at large.