Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hispanics Leaving Arizona In Advance Of Controversial Immigration Law's Enforcement

Nick Wing, HuffingtonPost.com: Arizona's controversial new immigration law may be prompting a mass dispersion of Hispanics -- both legal and illegal -- from the state. Though enforcement of the harsh law isn't set to begin until the end of July, reports from state and local officials show that the new measure may already be taking its toll on Arizona's Hispanic population.

According to a recent USA Today report:

Schools in Hispanic areas report unusual drops in enrollment. The Balsz Elementary School District is 75% Hispanic, and within a month of the law's passage, the parents of 70 students pulled them out of school, said District Superintendent Jeffrey Smith. The district lost seven students over the same one-month period last year, and parents tell Smith the Arizona law is the reason for leaving. [...]

Businesses serving the Hispanic community say business is down, signaling that illegal immigrants are holding on to cash in anticipation of a move from the state, said David Castillo, co-founder of the Latin Association of Arizona, a chamber of commerce for nearly 400 first-generation Hispanic business owners.

But the reports out of the state don't yet serve as a comprehensive analysis of population numbers, and some say that the recent outflow of Hispanics from Arizona may just be the latest in a trend that has shown diminished immigration numbers and increasing departures from the state due to the poor economy over the past few years. (More)

The heart of the immigration dilemma: Only 5,000 green cards to cover 500,000 unskilled-labor jobs (David Neiwert, Crooks and Liars). When reality catches up to Arizonans for their passage of their misbegotten police-state immigration law, it's going to be ugly and unpleasant. If other states really are considering passing similar laws, they will want to watch what happens to Arizona -- and they will inevitably wind up thinking twice.

We've pointed out previously -- as have the nation's police chiefs -- that the law is almost certain to in fact increase violent crime and dilute law enforcement's capacity to deal with it in Arizona.

And that will only be the first consequence (and a decidedly ironic one, since this law was sold as being a means to crack down on violent crime). The longest-lasting and most significant, however, will be the economic one: When the Latino workforce flees Arizona, their economy will suffer a dramatic downturn unlike any they've seen in decades.

It's already starting to happen:

Arizona’s hard-hitting immigration law is driving Hispanics out of the state weeks before the controversial law goes into effect.

Although concrete figures are not available, anecdotal evidence suggests Hispanics, both legal residents and illegal immigrants, are starting to flee.

Schools in Hispanic neighborhoods are reporting abnormal enrollment drops, and businesses that serve Hispanics also report that business is down, according to a USA Today report published Wednesday.

The report suggests that the immigration law is compounding demographic trends that have already significantly curtailed illegal immigration during the past two years. The bad economy has been the primary deterrent to many Hispanic immigrants seeking to enter Arizona, says Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

“If you have a bad economy and a hostile environment, then that’s likely to cause people to think twice about coming, and possibly even to leave,” Mr. Passel says.

... Any loss, however, will be a loss for the Arizona economy, [David Gutierrez, a professor of immigration history, at the University of California San Diego] suggests.

“Latinos...are a highly flexible, highly exploitable work force, a buffer to economic downturns,” he says. “Many of the industries here – agriculture, service industries, low-end manufacturing, construction – are massively dependent on undocumented workers.

“If I were able to conduct an experiment and pay all of Arizona’s undocumented workers to not work for two weeks, the economy would come to a screeching, crashing halt instantaneously.” ...

... because we pursue the American Dream, we will always have a need for immigrants, particularly those who perform unskilled labor. As the economy grows, so will the demand for that kind of labor. And we need immigration laws that will help fill that demand rationally and in a controlled way, not through the induced illegality of our current system.

Blaming the immigrants themselves, as the Arizona law does, is not a solution: it only worsens the problem. When Arizona businesses start failing because they cannot obtain a legal workforce under their new regime, the rest of the nation will get to see why just "enforcing the laws we have on the books" is no longer a viable option -- socially, legally, or economically.

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