States Pushing Anti-Immigration Legislation Forced to Run Costly Damage Control

Although anti-immigrant campaign platforms might help win a primary in a state like Arizona, supporters of harsh immigrant enforcement measures must still address the resulting economic fall out. Last week, the Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Tourism and Economic Vitality hired HMA Public Relations, a Phoenix-based marketing communications and public relations firm, to the tune of $100,000 to “develop a series of needs and goals for Arizona tourism in light of the controversy created by SB 1070”—and, boy, do they have their work cut out for them. Similarly, cities like Fremont, Nebraska—where an anti-immigrant ordinance passed in June—are also being forced to run damage control. Fremont’s City Council is currently considering a property tax increase proposal to help shoulder the projected legal fees resulting from the city’s restrictive immigration ordinance.

Perhaps HMA’s first order of business should be spinning a recent State Department report to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council which lists the federal government’s successful legal challenge to Arizona’s enforcement law as an effort to protect human rights. (Attempting to violate human rights, generally speaking, is probably not good for tourism.) Or maybe the firm should have a serious sit down with Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, who referred to the majority of undocumented immigrants as “drug mules” in an interview a few months back—rhetoric which doesn’t exactly scream “welcome to my state” either.

Even though a federal district judge enjoined the most controversial parts of SB 1070, Arizona’s reputation as an anti-immigrant state lingers as Arizona politicians continue to bash immigrants for political gain. With a growing list of economic boycotts, a declining housing market and a budget deficit of roughly $4.5 million, Arizona will continue to face the fiscal consequences of its “get tough on immigration” rhetoric. And that’s not even considering the estimated cost of implementing the law or the legal fees resulting from lawsuits, which could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Sadly, Arizona’s not the only state running damage control on anti-immigrant measures.

The city of Fremont, Nebraska, recently sent a proposal for a property tax hike (an additional 18% for resident property owners) to the City Council in anticipation of defending the city’s immigration enforcement ordinance—an ordinance that will require businesses to verify employees’ immigration status and renters to apply for an occupancy license. City officials estimate the annual cost of defending the ordinance to be about $750,000. Similarly, Farmers Branch, Texas and Hazleton, Pennsylvania are facing costly litigation to defend their immigration laws, both in the millions of dollars.

Currently, 22 other states are considering enforcement measures similar to Arizona’s and many will, in all likelihood, face similar legal challenges and incur mounting legal fees. As politicians continue to take a “get tough on immigration” stance in the run up to midterm elections, voters may decide that their pocketbooks trump their politics when it comes to immigration.

Photo by star5112.

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