On the Loss of Michael Hethmon

Mike Hethmon was a long-time attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

News that he was killed this weekend in a car wreck, at the hands of an alleged criminally negligent driver, hit us all like a ton of bricks.

Mike, who had been a dedicated and determined fixture around here going on 25 years, was due to retire at the end of this year.  This means I had the chance to watch him here that entire time. 

Mike was committed to the extreme, and the notion that his “retirement” meant he would disappear from the field of play was unimaginable. 

Such is the unthinkable unfairness of life that he finally had plans to move with his girlfriend to Tennessee at the beginning of 2021 and begin a long-awaited retirement.

Sadly, his life was cut short at 66. But in those 66 years, he made a big difference for his country.  Mike’s strength was in seeking creative opportunities to shake up the status quo, to develop innovative litigation strategies, often framed by state legislative proposals he’d help craft, that served to defend the traditional role that states have played in ensuring their policies aid and promote federal immigration enforcement priorities. Arizona’s SB1070 would not have happened without his involvement, to be sure. His determined defense of the American worker was legendary.

That innovative work gave new hope to FAIR’s ability to litigate in defense of citizens’ rights.  His efforts, begun so long ago, seem poignant now, in light of the Left-wing’s determination to erect a permanent wall between the states and the Federal Government, and to render immigration law unenforceable.  Mike, who revealed that he began life as a self-described “Left winger,” understood better and earlier than most what the agenda really was, and pushed hard to forestall it. 

Mike was a sweet, self-effacing guy who never sought credit. He spent years caring for an aging father. He often brought us fresh eggs from his farmette, and to know him well was to appreciate that he was one of the most interesting people you’d ever come across in life.  He had an irrascible, determined and stubborn streak that sometimes got him in a bit of trouble.  But this was a part of his enduring charm: Anyone who works in this field years on end and endures the slings and arrows of nasty and opportunistic opposition attacks needs to have a thick skin. 

And Mike was surely that:  Determined, tough, loyal, dedicated and patriotic.  There will never be another quite like him. 

About Author


Dan is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s President after joining the organization in 1982. He has testified more than 50 times before Congress, and been cited in the media as "America's best-known immigration reformer." Dan has appeared on virtually every significant TV and radio news/talk program in America and, in addition to being a contributing editor to ImmigrationReform.com, has contributed commentaries to a vast number of print media outlets.

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