As predicted, last night’s debate featured yet another feast of anti-immigrant rhetoric and no real solutions. Most notably, Mitt Romney took his pandering to new heights and praised Arizona’s “papers, please” law, SB 1070, as “a model” for the nation. We beg to differ. Arizona is a model for both bad policy and bad politics. As the general election draws closer, here are a few important takeaways voters should keep in mind as Arizona continues to secure its position as a battleground state this November:
Arizona’s “model” law is hurting its state’s budget and economy. The group Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform has estimated that SB 1070 cost the state’s tourism industry $490 million and 3,000 jobs in 2010 alone. In Alabama, which has implemented the harshest Arizona-style law, a recent report estimated that the state was on track to lose $11 billion. And while Arizona hasn’t calculated the cost to taxpayers of implementing the law, some states that considered “Arizona-style” bills in 2011, including Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee, dropped the bills when they discovered they would cost millions of dollars a year—money they didn’t have.
Laws like Arizona’s “model” don’t even succeed in getting immigrants to “self-deport.” Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released a study drawing on interviews with immigrants in Oklahoma City, which passed harsh laws similar to Arizona’s in 2007 and 2009. The study found that “Most unauthorized immigrants make the decision to stay in the country despite attempts to drive them out. The proliferation of state-level anti-immigrant laws has not changed the calculus for immigrants when it comes to deciding whether to stay here or return home.” This is because most immigrants have been in the United States for a decade or longer, raised families here and developed community ties. They are afraid to return to their home countries—and even if they were more afraid to stay here, they don’t have the money to leave. Other studies have found that after Arizona passed its mandatory E-Verify law, over 80 percent of undocumented immigrants stayed in the state.
SB 1070 has turned Arizona into a swing state. Romney’s hard-core immigration views are also creating a political problem. This week, Time Magazine has a cover story titled, “Why Latinos Will Pick the Next President.” In a preview, Michael Scherer reported: “the Obama campaign is betting that a backlash led by the growing Latino community can turn Arizona into a new presidential battleground in 2012.” Scherer included this analysis: “At the same time, Republicans have generally done a dismal job through the primary of appealing to Latino voters. George W. Bush won more than 40% of the community in 2004, but in a recent Latino Decisions poll conducted for Univision, 72% of Latinos said the GOP either did not care about their support or was hostile to their community. The 27% who sensed hostility represented a seven point increase from April of 2011, when the same pollsters asked the question.”
Nationwide, Latino voters have very strong negative views on Arizona-type immigration laws. Latino Decisions polling in November 2010 found that an overwhelming majority of Latino voters opposed the Arizona anti-immigration law. The poll found that 74 percent of Latino voters across eight key states opposed SB 1070, while 17% supported it. Only 9% had no opinion on the matter.
Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice, explained what this means:
Modeling America’s immigration policy on the failed experiment in Arizona is a guaranteed pathway to failure for the GOP. Separating family members, destroying businesses, and enforcing ‘self-deportation’ have all proved to be a recipe for disaster in this battleground state, which is why it’s unbelievable that the Republican candidates think they can win an election by championing such extremist immigration policies. As Republican candidates continue to shove their hand in the face of Latino voters, they can kiss their chances of winning the general election goodbye.