Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed today what is now the most punitive and sweeping anti-immigrant state law in the nation. This law’s full effects will not be measurable for months to come, but it is already clear that it will be challenged in court because it denies rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. And until the legal issues are settled, the new law will have a detrimental effect on Arizona’s economy, as well as city and state budgets.
The law essentially legalizes racial profiling
- The law puts communities of color in the crosshairs by requiring state and local government workers to determine if a person is illegally in the United States based on a “reasonable suspicion.”
- Legal experts maintain that the law will result in racial profiling, as it does not prohibit police officers from relying on race or ethnicity in deciding who to investigate. Of course all Arizonans don’t all look alike. Like America, Arizona is a diverse state with multiple generations of U.S. citizens. Three out of every 10 Arizonans are Hispanic, 1 out of 10 is American Indian, and 13 percent are foreign born.
The law undercuts the Constitution and imbues local police with federal authority
- Arizona is attempting to grant local police arrest authority for administrative violations of federal immigration law, even though the state police does not even have that authority under federal law.
- The measure does not require the local police to have a search warrant or even suspect that some illegal action has occurred.
- The law criminalizes the solicitation of work even though courts have previously ruled that the solicitation of work is protected speech under the First Amendment.
The law will harm the state and local economies
- The National Employment Law Project pointed out that smaller-scale anti-immigrant ordinances have cost individual localities millions of dollars. The Texas-based Perryman Group calculated that if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Arizona, the state would lose $26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 140,324 jobs.
- The Immigration Policy Center noted that, “with Arizona facing a budget deficit of more than $3 billion,” the new law will “further imperil the state’s economic future.”
- Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and other local leaders anticipate a drop in new business ventures in the state because of the harsh new law. Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski observed: “We’re the laughing stock of the country because of these crazy laws.”
The law will be expensive and take cops away from community policing
- The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police firmly opposes the law for fiscal and public safety reasons, noting that fear of government officials will diminish the public’s willingness to cooperate with police in criminal investigations and will “negatively affect the ability of law enforcement agencies across the state to fulfill their many responsibilities in a timely manner.”
- Local taxpayers will bear the heavy costs of lengthy court litigation.
- The costs to arrest, detain, process, and transport undocumented immigrants out of Arizona will drain local government treasuries. There were an estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona as of January 2009, making up 4 percent of the state’s population. If the federal government were to handle the entire undocumented population, the cost would be approximately $23,148 per person, based on a recent study by the Center for American Progress.
Arizona and other local and state governments are taking action on immigration because Congress has failed to enact comprehensive immigration reform that restores border security, provides a flexible visa program to meet business and family needs, and deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. This is a federal issue and must be handled by Congress immediately before other states start to follow Arizona’s lead.