Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Arizona’s Slamming Door

From the LA Times:

By Nicholas Riccardi

As it has become the favorite entry point for undocumented migrants trying to sneak into the United States, Arizona has become a laboratory for whether a state can single-handedly combat illegal immigration.

In recent years it has barred illegal immigrants from receiving government services, from winning punitive damages in lawsuits and from posting bail for serious crimes. A new state law shuts down businesses that hire illegal workers. And the sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and three-fifths of the state’s population, dispatches his deputies and volunteer “posses” to search for illegal street vendors or immigrants being smuggled through the county.

“What I love about what Arizona is doing is we don’t have to rely on the federal government,” said state Rep. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican who has authored most of the toughest measures. “It has truly woken up the rest of America that states can fix that problem.”

The campaign has had an effect: Illegal immigrants complain it’s impossible to find good work and are leaving the state.

It has also taken a toll on some U.S. citizens. Juan Carlos Ochoa, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in an upper-middle-class subdivision near Phoenix named Laguna Hills, can’t find a job because a government database classifies him as a possible illegal immigrant. Pauline Munoz, a 39-year-old mother of six who was born in Phoenix, has been afraid to leave her apartment since being held by sheriff’s deputies for 15 hours for a driving infraction – an example of what she believes is racial profiling.

And businesses that cater to immigrants both legal and illegal report a huge drop in sales, increasing the drag on the state’s already troubled economy. “There used to be so many people they would fight for parking out there,” said Omar Flores, 31, manager of La Mexicana market in western Phoenix. Now the grocery store is mostly empty.

Economist Dawn McLaren of Arizona State University said that part of what’s pushing immigrants out is the collapse of the state’s housing-based economy. In the construction sector, which employs many immigrants, 10% of jobs have vanished over the last year as home prices have plunged.

The economic woes are magnified by the employer sanctions law, which has led some businesses to say they won’t expand in Arizona, McLaren said. “It exacerbates the downturn,” she said. No one knows how many immigrants have left the state, and the most recent government figures show Arizona growing robustly – as of July, Maricopa was the fastest-growing county in the nation.

But enough immigrants have left that the government of Sonora, the Mexican state bordering Arizona, has complained about how many people have arrived on its doorstep.

Pearce says the overall effect has been undeniably positive for Arizona. “Smaller class sizes, shorter emergency room waits,” he said. “Even if [illegal immigrants] are paying taxes – and most of them aren’t – the cost to taxpayers is huge.”

Read the full article

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:37 AM

    It's too bad Albuquerque, NM didn't slam the door...it's now overrun by Mexican gangs.