By Natalia Ricardo
In recent months state legislators have attempted to raise support for the implementation of legislation mimicking Arizona’s SB-1070. These legislators have been emboldened in their efforts by the absence of responses to questions raised as to what should be done when the federal government is not able to address immigration issues. CLINIC has compiled possible responses that individuals might use when talking to representatives about why an Arizona-style law is not an effective solution. The responses supplied are intended to dissuade the implementation of laws like SB-1070 by highlighting the key negative consequences that Arizona has experienced since the law’s passage.
Legislator: We must pass our own immigration bill to protect our state. Every state is passing an Arizona-style law and we must do so as well.
Response: I can understand your concerns and your frustrations with the lack of progress on immigration reform at the federal level. The failure of Congress to act is both a failure of leadership and a failure of moral courage.
That said, the law that Arizona passed last year (SB-1070) is not an effective solution. SB-1070 is misguided and has created very real problems for Arizona. While the Arizona legislature did what it thought was right, it has not worked. The citizens of that state have lost, businesses there have lost, and the state as a whole has lost.
The Arizona law diverts law enforcement resources from those agencies’ core responsibilities and makes our communities less safe. For example, it consumes scarce law enforcement resources; discourages victim and witness cooperation; marginalizes a vulnerable population; and makes communities less safe.
An Arizona-like law will likely lead to violations of individuals’ rights, racial profiling, and ensnare citizens and lawful residents into lengthy questioning and wrongful detention.
Businesses have suffered major losses because of the Arizona law. Extensive research performed by the Center for American Progress estimates lost lodging revenue from the cancellation of events in the state to be about $45 million. By adding food, beverage, entertainment and retail sales, the estimated losses are closer to $141 million.
The state of Arizona has incurred costly litigation expenses defending SB-1070. Thus far, Arizona has paid nearly a half million dollars in legal fees, and could spend as much as $10 million should the case go the U.S. Supreme Court.
The state will expend taxpayer money to pay for the costs associated with the law. Resources are needed for training and materials for police, incarceration and transportation costs for new prisoners, public relations and public education costs, and costs associated with the need for more defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges to litigate cases.
The effect of the law on the state’s budget has exacerbated its current financial crisis. Latinos fearful of the new law are fleeing the state and taking their tax dollars, capital, and purchasing power with them. The law has severely tarnished the state’s reputation. And the law makes it harder for the law enforcement community to do its job.
As a state legislator, you know well that your job is to solve problems, not create them. Here’s how you can solve the problem and make a difference – work to pass legislation that benefits all individuals living and working in this state.
For example, work to pass legislation that holds employers accountable and punishes them if they cheat workers and cheat the state. You can do this by advancing legislation that ensures that employers do not misclassify workers as “independent contractors” when in fact they are “employees.” This type of legislation supports hard working businesses that play by the rules. It also adds to the state revenue by making sure that employers pay taxes for their employees.
You can work to pass legislation that integrates immigrants into our communities by expanding access to adult English classes, creating offices to assist in the naturalization process for aspiring citizens, and providing in-state tuition and scholarships for all state residents.
You can pass legislation that establishes a “Ladder Out of Poverty Task Force,” like Minnesota did last year, which ensures that individuals, including immigrants and other groups, have the opportunity to meet and present their views to the task force to develop ideas to assist the poor and improve their ability to move toward financial stability.
Legislator: I agree that immigration is a federal issue and ought to be solved by the federal government, but I do not think there is much hope of that happening in the near future. Thus, we need to take action to protect our state.
Response: Voters know that our nation’s broken immigration system will not be fixed at the state level, on an ad hoc basis. They realize that a comprehensive solution at the national level is required. State legislation targeting immigrants compounds our problems and fuels divisiveness within our communities.
Contrary to the assumption of many, studies show that immigration enforcement at the state and local level does not produce safer communities. Instead, it makes it less likely that crimes will be reported or that police will receive the cooperation they need to keep the peace.
Furthermore, many state anti-immigration laws increase racial profiling and discrimination against those who appear to be foreign or have an accent, building distrust in these communities. They also often lead to costly lawsuits.
State anti-immigrant laws complicate local-federal relations by defying the longstanding principle that the federal government regulates immigration. Courts have repeatedly found that state and local “immigration reform” initiatives conflict with federal law and violate the U.S. Constitution. For example, the most egregious sections of Arizona’s SB-1070 have been blocked from going into effect at the present time. State and local housing ordinances across the country have been found to be unconstitutional.
Conclusion. Your state does not need anti-immigrant laws that increase the state’s budget, instigate lengthy and costly lawsuits, and threaten public safety. Instead, we need laws that focus on promoting prosperity for all and economic growth and recovery throughout.