Lawyer for Anti-Illegal Immigrant Group Gets SWAT Raid for Son's Graffiti, But He's Still Not Worried About Law Enforcement Excess


Via Cato @ Liberty comes this Washington Post story about attorney Michael M. Hethmon, who is general counsel for Immigration Reform Law Institute and who is a supporters of the various tough on illegal immigrant bills seen in Alabama, Georgia, and of course Arizona. According to the Post, Hethmon is one of the two important architects of the idea that local and state governments can take immigrant law into their own hands, ideally making illegal immigrants feel so constricted that they "self-deport":

Judges have blocked some of the legislation, resulting in a pile of legal bills for the governments they helped, and on Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about the law in Arizona that has become the centerpiece achievement of the self-
deportation movement.

Supporters say the idea would never have advanced this far without [law professor Kris] Kobach and Hethmon, who have been editors, advisers, ghostwriters and legal defenders for politicians nationwide.

"They're the wizards behind the curtain," said Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Terrill (R), whose bill they rewrote. "They were the face and the muscle behind the effort that really synthesized it into a movement. Do I think it would have happened without them? Most certainly it would not have."

One of the most worrying aspects of these laws, and one which seems like it will likely be upheld by the Supreme Court, is the one that tells police to check the immigration status of drivers that they pull over. But worries over racism or xenophobia aside, it's clear that Hethmon is an equal-opportunity fan of police power; if his reaction to a recent SWAT raid on his home is any yardstick, that is:

Hethmon had an up-close and unpleasant experience with the same kind of local police he had done so much to empower.

The problem began with graffiti on a highway overpass in Bowie. Police there suspected that Hethmon's teenage son might be involved and obtained a search warrant. They arrived at 7 a.m. on March 9 with a heavily armed team of county officers.

"Come in with masks, guns, screaming. You know, knocking everybody down," Hethmon recalled. "I tried to explain to them, you know: 'Look, I'm a lawyer, this is outrageous.' [The reply was:] 'Shut up and lie down on the floor.'?"

Police said they found 2.5 grams of marijuana in the house. They filed charges against Hethmon, his son and his wife — all for the same drugs. The charges against Hethmon will be dropped, prosecutors said last week.

Hethmon said the experience has not changed his work.

"The fact that a law is legitimate and serving a purpose doesn't mean that it can't be abused," he said. "Human beings are flawed people."

And so, for the lesser-known of this duo, there has been a personal test. After he did so much to place greater trust in local police officers nationwide, police in Prince George's County sent a SWAT team to his house to look for .?.?. spray paint.

"It's ironic, you know," Hethmon said.

Long-time readers of Reason might remember that Prince George's County also was the location of the infamous raid/puppycide on the home of Berwyn Heights, Maryland Mayor Cheye Caylvo.

It's hard to know what's creepier about this story, Hethmon's devotion to the cause of making life miserable for immigrants, the status quo of the drug war, the use of SWAT for spray paint, or just the unnerving fact that Hethmon seems just as unconcerned about injustices when they happen to his own family as when they happen to poor immigrants. At least Hethmon isn't a hypocrite? 

Reason on the militarization of police and immigration