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TIME Magazine on the Economic Fallout of State Anti-Immigrant Laws

by Van Le on 06/14/2012 at 1:32pm

In addition to their amazing cover story and video on the DREAM Act and the plight of immigrant youth, TIME Magazine today has a great story on the “fiscal fallout of state immigration laws,” or what happens to states that try to “deport their way to prosperity.”

As the article begins:

State-level immigration laws don’t pay off. That’s the consensus from business and agricultural leaders who gathered in Atlanta this week for the first-ever Southeast Summit on Immigration. CEOs, farmers and law enforcement officials from several southern states—fed up with the federal government’s do-nothing immigration policy—pointed repeatedly to the devastating economic toll of immigration laws on local economies.

It seems that every state which has passed a local anti-immigrant law (like SB 1070 in Arizona and HB 56 in Alabama) has suffered severe economic consequences as a result.  Georgia’s crops are rotting for lack of labor.  The conference and tourism industry in Arizona has taken a serious hit.  The article goes into details:

SB 1070 only worsened Arizona’s fiscal woes, according to several studies. In the few months after its passage, Arizona’s economy lost $141 million, including $45 million in hotel and lodging cancellations and $96 million in lost commercial revenue, according to a joint study by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center. A drop in tourism also resulted in an estimated 2,761 jobs lost, resulting in $253 million lost in economic output. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit blocked most of SB 1070’s provisions. But if ever fully implemented, the study adds, the law would eliminate an estimated 580,000 jobs for immigrant and native-born Arizonians, shrinking the state’s economy by $48.8 billion. These figures don’t include the $1.9 million Arizona has spent to defend the state from lawsuits, which have forced Gov. Jan Brewer to establish a legal defense fund for contributions.

Despite the fiscal fallout, Alabama followed Arizona’s footsteps and approved its own immigration law in September. That measure, which analysts say is more draconian than Arizona’s, could result in a $10.8 billion loss to the state’s GDP, mostly due to reduced demand for goods and services provided by Alabama businesses, according to a widely cited study by economists at the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Alabama. Professor Samuel Addy, who led the study, estimates that the loss of 40,000 to 80,000 undocumented immigrants would result in 70,000 to 140,000 lost jobs in Alabama, which amount to $1.2 to $5.8 billion in lost earnings. An additional $57 to $264 million would be lost in state income and sales tax collections.

Luckily, other states seem to be paying attention.  In the last year, a handful of states have flirted with implementing HB 56 and SB 1070-style anti-immigrant laws, only to pull back from legislation due to economic and political concerns:

Other states have clearly taken notice. Recently, Kentucky concluded that passing Arizona-like legislation would cost the state up to $89 million annually, mostly to train additional law enforcement officers and personnel to implement the measure, according to a state senate-funded study. And the Florida Chamber Foundation last year argued that immigrant workers add $4.5 billion to the state’s coffers every year in the form of tax revenues. Business groups in Kansas, Texas and Mississippi produced similar studies that helped squash Arizona-style legislation. SB 1070 “is not an economic growth strategy,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, which organized this week’s conference in Atlanta. “But moral questions and public safety concerns are also involved. It’s a combination of business, bibles and badges.”

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