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The Washington Independent

Are Harsh Immigration Laws Bad for Business?

Last updated: July 31, 2020 | August 26, 2010 | Frazer Pugh
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Arizona has proved both an example of both positive and negative consequences for the 22 copy-cat states considering immigration enforcement legislation. On one hand, residents who supported action on illegal immigration were appeased, and Republicans such as Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. John McCain were able to turn their support for the state’s immigration law into easy primary victories.

But there were some clear financial drawbacks, which have become a rallying point for legislators who oppose similar legislation in their states. Arizona was hit with a costly federal lawsuit that Brewer vows she will take to the Supreme Court if necessary. The state faces boycotts from cities, groups and even musical artists around the country. One Arizona construction company lost a $3 million contract bid earlier this month with Santa Monica, Calif., and the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association said the state has lost at least 40 conventions and $15 million so far.

Arizona has tried to fight back: A task force charged with improving Arizona’s reputation post-SB 1070 awarded a $100,000 contract yesterday to a Phoenix public relations agency to help the Arizona Office of Tourism draw tourists to the state.

Florida legislators are using concerns about tourism to push back against an anti-immigration bill proposed for the next legislative session. The bill, proposed by defeated Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill McCollum and some state representatives, promised to be “tougher” than the Arizona law. While pushing for tougher immigration enforcement may be good for short-term political victories, opponents argue the law would hurt Florida business.

“We have a lot of Latin Americans who travel here on tourist visas,” Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata, a Republican member of the Florida Legislature Hispanic Caucus, said on a conference call earlier this week. “What kind of message do we send to them? Would they be afraid to come here if that happens? They have other places they can travel to, so obviously that would be a concern.”

In Utah, where Republican Rep. Stephen Sandstrom introduced legislation like Arizona’s, opposing lawmakers have argued the bill would cost Utah millions of dollars in detention costs, increased enforcement measures and potential lawsuits. “This bill is fiscally irresponsible,” Democrat Sen. Luz Robles told the Salt Lake Tribune last week. “We don’t have the money to pay for these types of issues.”

Fear of a lawsuit isn’t enough for all lawmakers: Despite arguments from state Democrats that the state should leave immigration alone because a federal judge found portions of SB 1070 unconstitutional, Colorado Colorado GOP members have said they plan to move ahead with immigration legislation.

Note: The original source for this story provided an incorrect value for the contract awarded by the Arizona Office of Tourism. The post has been updated to reflect the change. *

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