Michael Hethmon

Senior Counsel, Immigration Reform Law Institute

Hethmon and Kris Kobach were the legal architects behind the anti-immigrant movement’s attrition through enforcement policy – enacting ordinances that make life so difficult for immigrants that they relocate or “self-deport” back to their country of origin. Hethmon calls the harsh attrition through enforcement measures drafted and defended by IRLI “field tests”—experiments to test the legality of different anti-immigrant policies.

  • Michael M. Hethmon is a senior counsel for Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and a former staff attorney for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). IRLI has worked for years to shrink the total immigrant population in the U.S. by supporting legal attacks on states and localities and immigrants around the country, through its attrition through enforcement lawsuits and laws like SB1070 and Alabama’s HB 56.
  • During his time at FAIR and IRLI, Hethmon’s colleagues included Dale Wilcox, John Miano and Ian Smith.
  • In 2007, Hethmon joined Dan Stein of FAIR and Daryl Metcalfe, founder of State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI) to announce that SLLI would be entering into a “working partnership” with IRLI to create a set of model attrition through enforcement legislation that state legislators across the country could introduce.
  • The legislation would target things like in-state tuition for undocumented students and making the E-Verify program mandatory.
  • At an immigration debate, Hethmon described his support for self-deportation policies: “By making the environment for illegal aliens so inhospitable, especially in economic terms — if you can’t get a job, can’t pay rent — then maybe it’s not the good deal it’s cracked up to be.”
  • Hethmon argues that the United States’ transition to a country where the majority of its citizens are people of color could lead to violence.
  • In an op-ed for CNN in 2010, Hethmon described his work to enact harsh state-based immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 in the hopes of offering model legislation for Congress: “Sink or swim, these new laws are forcing Congress to confront the need for enforcement-based reform. State enactments like SB 1070 will continue to offer Congress models for national legislation and serve as legal antibodies against the fallacy of amnesty.”
  • As senior counsel to IRLI, Hethmon has supported the group in high profile cases of state and local anti-immigrant legislation and lawsuits, and their years long legal attacks on DACA and DAPA. Following the Supreme Court’s failure to reach a majority decision in the U.S. v. Texas case, IRLI issued a press release lauding the outcome, and confirming their behind-the-scenes work to attack these immigrants: “IRLI advised the Texas Attorney-General’s office on key facets of the case and filed a total of six friend-of-the-court briefs throughout the case’s proceedings.”
  • IRLI, an ardent supporter of the Trump Administration, and has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of many of their policies such as the Muslim Ban, dismantling of asylum law, declaring a national emergency to fund a wall along the Southern border, the 2020 Census citizenship question and ending DACA.
  • On August 29, 2019, the IRLI filed two legal briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Trump Administration on DACA litigation. One of the briefs filed on behalf of SaveJobs USA and the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, challenged work authorization for DACA recipients, while the other one argued that DACA was unlawful.
  • In recent years IRLI has worked to dismantle birthright citizenship, employment based immigration, the DACA and DAPA programs, and supported the Georgia higher education system’s decision to deny DACA recipients access to certain universities in the state.