Can Arizona Afford to Implement S.B. 1070?

As the deadline for signing/vetoing Arizona’s immigration enforcement law (S.B. 1070) draws near, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has more than just the moral and ethical implications of the law to consider. The proposed “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” a bill that makes it a misdemeanor to fail to carry proper immigration documents and requires police to determine a person’s immigration status, could come with heftier price tag than people may realize. While the Arizona legislature has not yet determined the costs associated with S.B. 1070 (the state legislature failed to attribute a cost in their attached fiscal note), several economic indicators reveal the potential cost of implementation to Arizona taxpayers and the residual consequences of driving unauthorized immigrations out of Arizona.

Gov. Brewer touts a $10 million investment in local law enforcement—federal stimulus money the state received from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But $10 million is nothing when it comes to the actual cost of implementation—which includes processing fees, jail costs, attorney and staff fees and the additional detention facilities that would need to be built to accommodate the additional inmate flow. In response to a similar Arizona enforcement bill in 2006 (which then Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed), Yuma County Sheriff Ralph Ogden produced a fact sheet which shows the staggering potential cost to law enforcement agencies in Yuma County.

According to the fact sheet:

  • Law-enforcement agencies would spend between $775,880 and $1,163,820 in processing expenses;
  • Jail costs would be between $21,195,600 and $96,086,720;
  • Attorney and staff fees would be $810,067 – $1,620,134;
  • Additional detention facilities would have to be built at unknown costs.

And that’s just in Yuma County alone. Yuma County has a population of 200,000 and is only one of fifteen counties in Arizona. The above implementation cost could reasonably be magnified to consider the cost for all Arizona counties.

In addition to implementation costs, Gov. Brewer should also consider the costs of defending the state against potential lawsuits on behalf of legal immigrants and native-born Latinos who feel they have been unjustly targeted. For example, the city of Farmers Branch, TX, passed an ordinance in 2006 (now overturned) which required landlords to verify potential renters’ immigration status. To date, the city has spent $3.2 million in legal fees defending itself since September 2006—and the bill is expected to exceed $5 million by the end of fiscal year 2010. Hazelton, PA, is also engaged in a similar fight over rental ordinances.

This is to say nothing, of course, of the number of immigrants and Latinos who would potentially leave the state due to the new law—taking with them their tax dollars, businesses and purchasing power. Arizona’s budget is already in the hole by more than $3 billion.

According to an Immigration Policy Center (IPC) fact sheet:

  • The total economic output attributable to Arizona’s immigrant workers was $44 billion in 2004, which sustained roughly 400,000 full-time jobs.
  • Over 35,000 businesses in Arizona are Latino-owned and had sales and receipts of $4.3 billion and employed 39,363 people in 2002.
  • The Perryman Group estimates 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, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time.

Clearly, implementing S.B. 1070 comes with both large economic and political price tags. But just as Gov. Brewer should consider the economic and political implications of signing this law, so should Congress consider their responsibility in moving forward with immigration reform. At a naturalization ceremony at the White House this morning, President Obama remarked that all Americans will foot bill for our failure to reform our broken immigration system. Arizona’s new law is just the latest reminder of that failure.

Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.

In fact, I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation. But if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.

Photo by aresauburn™.

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  • Carlos Nagel

    It must be considered that, should Gov Brewer not veto the legislation, it will be 90 days after the end of the legislative session before it takes effect, which will provide some time for Federal and civil suits to be initiated.

  • I sent this exact info out 6 weeks ago to all the media and to the pseudo leaders in Phoenix, Arizona. They ignored the report. I even sent them a copy of an interview I did with Sheriff Ogden. Nobody gave a damn!!! The pseudo leaders in Phoenix and the mainstream media deals with everything through censorship!!!

    We could have molded public opinion if we had gotten this information out weeks ago!

    Now the bill is signed!! Of course these pseudo leaders are standing on a stage in front of the capital boasting about their “supposed” struggle!

    Shame on them!!!

  • Joan M. Smith

    The passing of the SB 1070 in Arizona is a constitutional violation of human rights. Have we lost sight of being hospitable, welcoming the stranger and most of all have we forgotten that the US was built and founded on immigration. I believe this bill will strigger a list of other problems that will affect us all. How you plan to get rid of 400,000 immigrants that reside in Arizona? and have you given any thoughts on how this law will farther break up and destroy a family system that is already in crisis? WWJD?

  • Hi Seth,

    First of all, I wanted to thank for such an interesting post. I have not seen anyone concentrate on the financial spin this issue would put on the state of AZ. This was a refreshing perspective, bringing to light a ton of different points on the issue that I had not heard before. Your post is enlightening and informative. I think I can speak on the behalf of your readers as well when I say I greatly appreciated the story.

    After reading your post, I thought you and your readers might find this video link interesting:

    The Newsy video puts an interesting spin on the event as well, reporting on all political perspectives relating to the issue. It also enlightens the reader about future implications the bill presents in an unbiased fashion. I hope you would consider embedding our video in your post. videos combine and analyze news coverage from multiple sources across media to give users comprehensive updates about global events. Newsy videos highlight bias and explore new perspectives to make users smarter, faster.

    Matt Kamp
    Online Development Team

  • jvc

    This debate is laughable. According to this report, we have 400,000 people who are living in AZ illegally. So, because there are so many of them, are we supposed to ignore the fact that they are breaking the law? Immigrants are welcome in the United States. We welcome the diversity that they give us. There is a legal process by which they can come to live here. Follow it.

    But they don’t want to. Does that mean that, because I don’t want to pay for groceries or gas that I should just expect to walk into the grocery store, take what I want and leave without paying for it, and then fill up my car’s gas tank and drive off without paying? Of course not. The laws in this country are made by the people, for the people, and all are expected to follow to them, or lose their rights.

  • I think Arizona, the state I grew up in, has made a very bold and brave law on immigration. If more states were to institute similar legislation I belive it could relieve the strain on local governments housing, feeding, jailing and providing medical care for the illegals. I currently live in California and wish they would adopt a similar policy.

  • I believe they will just ended up spending loads and tones of money only to be appealed soon after. I’m afraid they can go bankrupt since San Francisco and other states promise to cut off all Economic Ties to Arizona in Protest for this Controversial New Arizona Immigration Law.

  • The S.B. 1070 is a big, big, big economic damage to Arizona. It is not only the money the state of Arizona needs to expend for deportations, jail, police, etc, but also the money that the state will not receive from the people and companies as tax payers, buyers and investors.

  • Jesus Mejia

    Whatever happened to the values of humanity,
    Whatever happened to the fairness in equality,
    Instead in spreading love we’re spreading animosity,
    Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity..



    I just can’t comprehend how people are still so racist, biggoted and think one immigrant race should be welcomed into this melting pot of a country. I am chicano, meaning I was born in the U.S. legally and though I have only been to Mexico twice in my lifetime, if I leave my id at home I can be jailed and if no one is at home to bring my “papers”, I can be deported. And deported to where? I am a second generation mexican american who has very limited ties to mexico. We must remember with the exception of indegenous native tribes and mexicans since the southwest was mexico not so long ago, we are all migrants to this land and we can not and will not blame hardworking tax paying humans not aliens for a failing economy which has been raped by corporate america evil sheriffs exhausting state budgets with their own agendas and by people who have themselves made poor financial decisions past and present. We are humans not aliens people

  • justice studies grad

    Frankly, you all are missing the real issue. Being a woman of color I have experienced racial injustice and racial discrimination my entire life. Enough to know that racial profiling is NEVER EVER okay! And now they think that they can just slip it into law?!?!? This is not about us supporting immigrants being illegal or supporting illegals crossing the border without the appropriate paperwork. Its about the millions of Mexican Americans who are citizens. Born and raised here just like you, who will now legally be profiled, apprehended, harassed, discriminated against, and automatically assumed to be illegal. That is not right and that is not civil! So thank you Rev. Al Sharpton for inflamming the true issue when so many others are blind, because if this law goes into effect, honestly, WHO IS NEXT?
    That’s the problem with white politicians. They think that if a law protect the rights of white Americans than it protects the rights of all Americans and that is not the case! As for President Obama I feel that by him not intervening he is condoning. President Obama we voted for you because you represented CHANGE so please don’t be afraid to do just that!

  • Terrance H. Booth, Sr.

    Boycotters that are boycotting Arizona because of SB 1070 should consider moving conferences or events to AZ Native Casino Resorts. Why? Tribes have their own tribal jurisdictions and State laws are not impose to AZ Tribes. Tribes are like a Nation within a Nation. Boycotters can visibly show AZ lawmakers what they are missing out in revenues. A Tribe has shopping, mall, stores, retailers, transportation on tribal lands not far away from their Resort.

  • As a long-time resident of Prescott, AZ, I am deeply concerned about this law–and now, after reading this post, I’m even more concerned. With the recession, the bottom has dropped out of our false prosperity, built on construction and easy credit. Chino Valley, one of our nearby communities, recently had to go on a four day school week for its kids due to budget shortfalls. Now this? Voice your opposition in your community:

  • eduardo

    I understand that entering this country without the right paperwork is illegal.However I also think that the government should take an entire different approach regarding this entire situation.The country has dealt with this kind of problem at a different time period.I frankly don’t understand how being in the 21st century they can’t resolve an issue of this magnitude.In my american history class I learned about how they legalized african americans.Now how is it that they can’t do the same exact thing in this more evolutionized,more modern country that everyone calls free and diverse?

  • machicucusa

    Do the US Gov prohibit the childs of deported inmigrant to travel to their contry to reunite with their parents? Will US Gov pay the cost to send family left behind for deported ilegal inmigrant back to their contry ? Should every parent that have US born child have the right to stay in US ?
    What hapen with legal inmigrants ?
    Those are the question that nobody answer

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  • Let’s look at some of the choices Arizona (and the nation) has:

    – Do nothing about the growing population of undocumented immigrants.
    – Grant unconditional amnesty.
    – Provide migrant workers with special visas to allow working in the U.S. and traveling back and forth across the border.
    – Allow paths to U.S. citizenship to those undocumented immigrants already here. Earned through present process criteria, streamlined for all immigrants. No free citizenship.
    – Enforce current immigration laws/policies.
    – Reform current federal laws – streamline the process. Keep the details, but apply them with today’s technology.
    – With lack of Federal enforcement, states create immigration laws on their own,limiting access, probably encouraging profiling.
    – Send all undocumented immigrants back to their home countries.

    By far, not a comprehensive list, but just a hint of the broad spectrum of issues involved in immigration management. Where should the line be drawn? Who should make the decisions about that line? What should be the process for that decision?

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