The High Cost of Inaction on Immigration Reform


Photo by zzzack.

This week the National Institute on Money in State Politics released a study on funding spent supporting and opposing immigration-related ballot measures. Immigration Measures: Support on Both Sides of the Fence examined 2008 ballot initiatives in Oregon and Arizona and found that money raised by both sides of the issue totaled more than $17.5 million.

In Oregon, Measure 58 would have limited the teaching of public school students in a language other than English to two years. Proponents of the bill raised $1,062,424, while opponents raised $15,582,690. That’s a total of $16.6 million raised by organizations that took a stand on this ballot measure. The measure failed with only 44% of the votes. Among those supporting Measure 58 were Oregonians for Immigration Reform and English for the Children – groups whose only cause was Measure 58. Those opposing the measure included unions, non-profits, churches, and advocacy groups.

In Arizona, Proposition 202 would have made business-friendly changes to a state law that makes the E-Verify system mandatory for all employers and penalizes employers for hiring undocumented workers. Proposition 202 failed by a large margin despite the fact that those supporting it raised significantly more money than the opposition. Stop Illegal Hiring Prop 202, a committee to support the measure, raised $1,001,196, the majority coming from business leaders. No On Prop 202—the committee formed to oppose the measure—raised $140,350. No On Prop 202 was supported by Team America, former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s PAC, FAIR, and Representative Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) campaign committee. No On Prop 202 received more than $17,000 in funding from unnamed sources. That’s a total of $1,141,546 between these two committees.

In these two states alone, more than $17.5 million was raised by groups supporting or opposing immigration ballot measures. In one case, the side with the most money won and in the other case, the side with a fraction of the money was successful.

What this shows is that our broken immigration system is becoming incredibly expensive in new and unanticipated ways. In addition to the money spent on immigration enforcement—on the border, on arresting, detaining, prosecuting, and deporting undocumented immigrants—and on the lost tax revenue due to unauthorized under-the-table employment and all the other costs, state and local efforts to deal with the federal immigration issue are tremendously costly. And it’s only going to continue to increase unless Congress and the Administration get serious about immigration reform and bringing our national immigration laws into the 21st century.

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  • http://www.kolkenlaw.com Matthew Kolken

    It goes without saying that employers should not willfully and knowingly hire individuals who are in this country illegally, but the reality is that in these tough economic times a United States Citizen employer needs the legal means to hire willing workers, and our broken immigration system in many cases precludes that option.

    Moreover, a business owner should not be put in the position of having to fire a long term and valued employee who their business depends upon to remain viable simply because their name came up in a government data-base.

    Fixing our immigration laws in conjunction with enforcement is the only viable option.

  • Dave

    wow this is a great angle. i bet this could be developed into some serious research. there is a lot of economic discourse about the pros and cons of immigration reform- this is a narrative i had not yet thought of or heard? good work!

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