We knew all along that there was a powerful business incentive involved in the Arizona Senate's recent rejection of the latest Russell Pearce anti-immigration slate. Now the New York Times corroborates it: The Senate move was a victory for
March 25, 2011

We knew all along that there was a powerful business incentive involved in the Arizona Senate's recent rejection of the latest Russell Pearce anti-immigration slate. Now the New York Times corroborates it:

The Senate move was a victory for the Arizona business lobby, which on many issues is more moderate than state lawmakers. And it was a rebuke for the State Senate president, Russell Pearce, a Republican and the driving force behind tough immigration measures, including the law passed last April requiring police to question the status of anyone they stop if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be an illegal immigrant.

Opponents of the five bills said that the state’s image had been hit hard, and that it did not make sense to pass new measures while the state had already put itself so far out in front of other states and the federal government on the issue — at a cost to tourism and other industries.

They said that previous immigration bills were still being reviewed by the courts, and that it was not smart to pass new legislation that plainly conflicted with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

“I don’t believe that anyone, including myself, foresaw the national and international reaction” to April’s bill, said Glenn Hamer, chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said estimates of lost tourism business ranged from $15 million to $150 million. “Now we have that experience under our belts. We know these measures can cause economic damage; it’s just a matter of degree.”

The tourism and image-related business losses were only the tip of the iceberg, though, when it comes to the damage inflicted on the state by SB1070 and its related anti-immigration measures. As we've explained previously, simply deporting and/or driving out all the state's undocumented immigrants would have disastrous economic consequences on a broad basis for the state -- some of which are already being felt.

A new study from the Center for American Progress, "A Rising Tide or a Shrinking Pie: The Economic Impact of Legalization Versus Deportation in Arizona" lays it all out in great detail:

The economic analysis in this report shows the S.B. 1070 approach would have devastating economic consequences if its goals were accomplished. When undocumented workers are taken out of the economy, the jobs they support through their labor, consumption, and tax payments disappear as well. Particularly during a time of profound economic uncertainty, the type of economic dislocation envisioned by S.B. 1070-type policies runs directly counter to the interests of our nation as we continue to struggle to distance ourselves from the ravages of the Great Recession.

Conversely, our analysis shows that legalizing undocumented immigrants in Arizona would yield a significant positive economic impact. Based on the historical results of the last legalization program under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, our analysis shows a similar program would increase wages not only for immigrants but also for their native-born co-workers. This would generate more tax revenue and more consumer and business spending, supporting additional jobs throughout the economy.

Public debate over the wisdom of laws such as S.B. 1070 is heated but generally lacking in substance. The proponents of S.B. 1070 and related legislation now under debate in other cities and states claim to be acting in the best economic interests of native-born Americans, but as this report demonstrates, their claim is wholly unsubstantiated.

The chart below makes it simple:

Figure 1: Mass deportation versus mass legalization
Costs and consequences

Deportation effects in Arizona

* Decrease total employment by 17.2 percent
* Eliminate 581,000 jobs for immigrant and native-born workers alike
* Shrink state economy by $48.8 billion
* Reduce state tax revenues by 10.1 percent

Legalization effects in Arizona

* Increase total employment by 7.7 percent
* Add 261,000 jobs for immigrant and native-born workers alike
* Increase labor income by $5.6 billion
* Increase tax revenues by $1.68 billion

Some Arizonans are starting to wake up. The other night in Mesa, there was a spirited public debate over the so-called "Utah compact," the Mormon-led deal in Utah that led to state leaders there taking a more thoughtful approach to immigration:

Not everyone in Mesa was ready to agree, however. Of the nearly 30 speakers, almost half opposed the compact, and several speakers threatened the city with lawsuits and the loss of millions of dollars under provisions of last year's Senate Bill 1070 if the city endorsed the Utah Compact. In their view, adopting such a statement would turn Mesa into a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants.

Speakers against the compact complained that illegal immigrants are draining the state treasury, committing crimes, degrading Mesa's quality of life and even providing cover for terrorists crossing the southern border.

Arguments ranged from the theological, with speakers disagreeing on how Jesus would see the issue, to the economic, with sparring over whether immigrants help or hurt Arizona's bottom line.

"If you do pass this, you will be fulfilling what God told Micah: Do justice, love kindness and walk modestly with your God," said Paul Whitlock, senior pastor of Desert Heritage Church, which belongs to the United Church of Christ denomination.

"It's not about race, it's about following laws," said Joe Fletcher, representing the Mountain View Tea Party. "Why does one group get to choose which laws they want to follow and one group doesn't?"

Brenda Rascon, a Westwood High School and Arizona State University graduate who said she is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, said the compact is "a good alternative to the hostile climate created by laws like SB 1070," which became law last year under the aegis of state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.

"I'm a citizen of this country. I see a growing hostility towards people who look like me, supported by my state senator," she said.

At that a member of the audience was heard to say, "Cry me a river."

Rascon continued, "Is this the kind of society that we actually want? A divisive, ugly society filled with leaders who appeal to the most basal instincts of our character?"

That's what Arizona has created for itself now. Someday, perhaps, the state's residents with greater good sense will once again be running things. We'll know, perhaps, when they finally show Sheriff Joe the door.

But until then ...

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