Last week, local law enforcement, religious and business groups in South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Florida spoke out against the introduction of Arizona-style immigration laws in their states, citing the harmful social and economic consequences of such laws. This week, another batch of state legislators in Nebraska, Indiana, Colorado and Texas dipped their toes in the enforcement-only waters, but found themselves facing an even louder chorus of opposition from their communities. Amidst budget crises and cutbacks, many local communities worry that the cost to implement and defend such laws, and the possible loss of tourism, consumer, and business dollars, is too high a price to pay. Some state lawmakers are even introducing countermeasures to Arizona-style bills, calling on local law enforcement to “focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of the federal code.”
Earlier this month, Nebraska state Sen. Charlie Janssen introduced an Arizona-style bill (LB48) that would require local law enforcement to question the immigration status of those they suspect are undocumented. On Tuesday, state Sen. Brenda Council responded by introducing a resolution which lays out guiding principles for a national immigration discussion—one that highlights immigration as a federal issue, not state, and asks local law enforcement to focus on criminal activities instead of “violations of federal code.” Sen. Council’s resolution is similar to the Utah Compact which is supported by law enforcement groups, politicians, civic groups, and religious leaders.
This week, Indiana state Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) introduced an Arizona-style bill (SB 590) in the Senate, one he describes as “tough, but fair.” The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, however, argues that the proposed bill would unreasonably hurt Indiana businesses. According to the Chicago Tribune, several business organizations have opposed previous anti-immigrant bills, saying ‘Indiana’s economy could suffer if the proposal passes, hurting both illegal workers and American citizens.”
On Wednesday, Colorado state Senator Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) filed SB 54, an Arizona-like bill that would allow, but not require, local police to arrest someone if there is probable cause to believe he or she is an undocumented immigrant. Although the bill is unlikely to become law—it would have to make it past a divided legislature and a Democratic governor—Colorado lawmakers, police and advocates are voicing their concern about how the bill will negatively affect the state’s economy. According to Julien Ross, direct of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition:
At a time when most Coloradans are concerned about jobs and the economy, it is mind-boggling that a handful of Colorado senators would pursue the same divisive legislation that has cost the state of Arizona millions in lost tourism revenue and wasted taxpayer dollars on lawsuit challenges. Colorado should instead pursue immigration policies that reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.
And in Austin, Texas, state lawmakers convened last week to consider roughly 40 immigration-related bills during their biannual five month legislative session, including an Arizona-style enforcement bill. Many in Texas, like Bill Hammond, executive director of the Texas Association of Business, worry that these laws will hurt convention business—business which depend on out-of-state vendors who may consider Texas too hostile. Even Texas law enforcement has taken a stand, joining forces with local business, faith and civil rights leaders in opposition to the measures.
Meanwhile, a fiscal-impact study of Kentucky’s immigration law (SB 6, which recently passed the Kentucky Senate and is now in the House) estimates the law would cost a net $40 million per year. Kentucky is already facing a $780 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2011, can the Bluegrass state really afford this law?
As other states begin to check off the estimated cost of Arizona-style legislation, many will find their states—facing large budget deficits—simply can’t afford the costly economic consequences.
Photo by dcsimone.