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It has been just over a year since the passage of Arizona’s ill-fated anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070. In its wake, many states put copycat bills on their agendas for the 2011 legislative session. But as most states wrap up their legislative session for the year, only a handful (Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and South Carolina) actually passed anti-immigrant bills, while 26 others rejected them. Even Arizona, which last year saw its anti-immigrant bill largely blocked by a federal judge, joined this movement and rejected a series of even harsher bills this year.
While opponents have had some successes in a handful of states, far more states rejected anti-immigrant bills. One of the principal reasons for the failure of so many of these legislative efforts was cost. S.B. 1070 and bills like it in other states are expensive to implement at many levels, placing a heavy burden on state and local governments already feeling the effects of a down economy. This brief examines the costs of anti-immigrant legislation from a variety of perspectives, detailing the losses that states such as Arizona have already faced, as well as the future costs that states such as Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, which have only just recently passed their own anti-immigrant laws, will have to reckon with.
In particular, we focus on three costs:
- The economic damage stemming from a state being perceived as hostile, including lost tourist revenue and individuals choosing to live elsewhere rather than remain in an unwelcoming environment.
- The burden of implementing these laws, each of which requires significant resources to be deployed by state and local governments to turn local police into immigration officers—to the detriment of their regular law enforcement duties. The laws also force small businesses into costly immigration enforcement through the use of the electronic employment verification system, known as E-Verify, which some states have made mandatory as part of their anti-immigrant agenda.
- The expense of the legal fees associated with defending anti-immigrant legislation from the raft of ensuing lawsuits.
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