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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

CAP brief shows the high costs of state immigration enforcement laws

Many legislatures have rejected ’Arizona-style’ legislation out of concern for the price tag.

Emmanuella Shea
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jul 06, 2011

A new policy brief from the Center for American Progress looks at the costs of new immigration enforcement laws that have passed in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina. Proponents of these laws in 30 different states consciously followed the example of Arizona’s SB 1070, passed last year, but only a few state legislatures ended up approving legislation. In many cases, the brief argues, the reason for states rejecting the bills was because of their high cost: “S.B. 1070 and bills like it in other states are expensive to implement at many levels, placing a heavy burden on state and local governments already feeling the effects of a down economy.”

When journalists or politicians refer to an “Arizona-style” immigration law, they are usually referring to the provisions in SB 1070 which require that police check on the immigration status of anyone they had a “reasonable suspicion” was undocumented. While additional provisions in these laws vary by state, in general they tend to greatly increase the likelihood that undocumented immigrants or people suspected of being undocumented will be detained or arrested. As the brief points out, that means additional personnel and training for local law enforcement, as well as increased jail occupancy, transportation costs for arrested immigrants and the legal costs of revising existing municipal ordinances and sustaining the new laws in court, all of which are hard to square with attempts at fiscal austerity within state governments.

There’s also the damage to the local and state economies:

Research conducted by Arizona-based economists for the Center for American Progress found that anti-Arizona sentiment resulted in a major hit to the tourist industry, with significantly decreased wages, lodging revenue, and tourist dollars. These losses have already totaled at least $141 million … Fewer tourists has meant that an incredible 2761 jobs, $253 million in economic output, and $9.4 million in tax revenues have disappeared, with the potential for far worse results in the future.

What’s more, the brief estimates that if Arizona’s SB 1070 were a success from the perspective of its proponents, and every undocumented immigrant were to leave the state, “it would shrink Arizona’s economy by $48.8 billion,” and reduce tax revenue by 10.1 percent.

Another observation made in CAP’s brief is that many of the costs of “attrition through enforcement” policies are unexpected and surprising to their proponents once they are pointed out. For example, Prince William County, Va., tried to pass a “papers, please” ordinance in 2007, but chose not to once the police chief estimated that “the county would have to spend $3.2 million to install cameras in every patrol car to ensure no racial profiling would occur.” Such anti-discriminatory measures are necessary to prevent even higher legal fees, as even the laws’ proponents admit that they will lead to racial discrimination if criteria for what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” of illegal status isn’t made clear (which is why the Arizona legislature quickly passed an amendment to SB 1070 prohibiting prosecution of undocumented immigrants on the basis of race or national origin). Such discrimination is not only bad from a P.R. standpoint, but also results in expensive lawsuits by civil rights groups and injured parties. As the CAP brief observes, Arizona has already spent $1.9 million “just for the preliminary injunction and appeal—the case itself has yet to be decided.”

Emmanuella Shea | Emmanuella Shea is a professional financial analyst with over 9 years of experience in the financial markets. Emmanuella is still concerned about the long-term stability of multimillion-dollar financial portfolios. She is skilled at persuading and manipulating high-ranking individuals in addition to her work as a Financial Analyst. Her decisions are trusted and respected, and her views are highly regarded. Her long-term ambition is to work as a policy advisor at the national level. She wants to use her unwavering dedication and drive to help developing-country people gain more dignity and autonomy.


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