Nativist Group Twists Facts on Effectiveness of Arizona’s Immigration Law

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has outdone itself when it comes to shoddy research. In a recently released report on “demographic changes” in Arizona, FAIR utilizes an almost random assortment of statistics to make its case that the state’s unauthorized immigrants are fleeing in droves thanks to get-tough immigration policies. The report occasionally pays lip service to the impact on unauthorized immigration of the 2008-2009 recession, as well as persistently high unemployment rates that continue to this day. Yet FAIR concludes, without evidence, that state-level immigration enforcement has been the single most important factor causing the decline of the unauthorized population. In reality, this conclusion is not supported by the data which FAIR presents.

FAIR’s report is painfully self-contradictory. It opens with the bold statement that the “efforts of Arizona policymakers to deter the settlement of illegal aliens in the state and to encourage those already in the state to leave have made major advances in their objective.” To bolster this statement, the report offers a bountiful supply of numbers on declines over the past few years in the size of the state’s foreign-born population, foreign-born Latin American population, and unauthorized immigrant population—not to mention reductions in the poverty rate, birth rate, and crime rate. Strangely enough, some of these statistics—such as those on the drop in crime—document trends which began before Arizona had enacted any harsh immigration laws.

The report does mention, offhandedly, that punitive state immigration policies may not account for all of these demographic trends given the presence of other factors, such as “the effects of the recession, loss of jobs and growing unemployment.” Yet this acknowledgment of reality is immediately followed by the muddled argument that “the confluence of all of these factors constituted a strong message that Arizona was no longer a desirable destination for illegal aliens and that already settled illegal aliens faced increased exposure to identification and deportation.” At the very end, the report is back to making the sensational and unsubstantiated claim that the state’s demographic changes “resulted from local law enforcement activities as well as legislative changes designed to make Arizona less accommodating for aliens seeking illegal work in the state.”

While FAIR is certain that get-tough laws in Arizona have provoked an exodus of unauthorized immigrants, other observers with a less fanciful attitude towards data sound a note of caution. For instance, Juan Pedroza of the Urban Institute has pointed out that “it’s tough to tell whether (and how many) immigrants have left a community if you are looking right after a state passes a law. It can take years of evidence to test claims of a mass exodus.” Moreover, “growing evidence suggests that most immigrants (especially families with school-age children) are here to stay, except perhaps where local economies are particularly weak.”

In a related vein, a report released last year by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) evaluated the impact of the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), which made it mandatory for the state’s employers to use the federal E-Verify employment-authorization system. The report found that, while the law did motivate some unauthorized immigrants to leave the state, it also pushed many of those who remained “into less formal work arrangements.” As a result, “policymakers must weigh the sought-after drop in unauthorized employment against the costs associated with shifting workers into informal employment.” In other words, reality is more complicated than FAIR’s misinterpretation of demographic statistics would suggest.

FAIR’s numerical screed against unauthorized immigrants in Arizona does not rise to the level of serious research. Too many variables go unaccounted for, too many assumptions are made, and too many conclusions are predetermined. State-level immigration enforcement is one among many factors that influence the decision of an unauthorized individual or family in Arizona as to whether they should stay or leave. Untangling those factors involves complicated research of a kind that FAIR cannot provide.



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New Report Analyzes Fatal Flaws of U.S. Border-Enforcement Strategy

The federal government’s current approach to border security is dangerously misguided. Border-enforcement resources are directed at what gets smuggled across the border—people, drugs, guns, money—rather than who is doing the smuggling; namely, the transnational criminal organizations based in Mexico which are commonly referred to as the “cartels.” If the U.S. government wants to get serious about enhancing border security, it will begin to systematically dismantle the cartels rather than just seizing the unauthorized immigrants and the contraband they smuggle and arresting a few low-level cartel operatives in the process.

This is the central message of a new report by former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, entitled How to Fix a Broken Border: Disrupting Smuggling at Its Source. The report starts off by noting that when it comes to border security, “the prevailing assumption is that all we need to stop illegal crossings of drugs, people, cash, and guns are more Border Patrol agents, more National Guard troops, and more surveillance and sensors to cover the hundreds of rugged miles between lawful ports of entry.” Indeed, this has been the rationale for building 650 miles of border fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, and for the massive expansion of the Border Patrol since the early 1990s. The Border Patrol now numbers 21,000 agents and has a high-tech arsenal that includes unmanned aerial drones.

Yet, in spite of all the fencing, agents, and technology, cross-border smuggling continues unabated. The reason for this is twofold. First, the cartels that do the smuggling are, as Goddard puts it, “superbly organized, technologically adept, and very well funded.” When it comes to fencing in particular, they “have the capacity to go over, under, around, and even through virtually any physical barrier.” The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that “during fiscal year 2010, there were 4,037 documented and repaired breaches” of border fencing.

Second, the U.S. government is focused on seizing different kinds of contraband—and assigns different kinds to different government agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gets unauthorized immigrants, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) gets illegal drugs, and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) gets illegal guns. Missing from this division of labor is a coordinated assault on the cartels that do the smuggling. This is a losing proposition. As Goddard emphasizes:

Going after the contraband product or smuggled people, as this country has been doing for years, is destined to be an endless chase. The cartels will just regroup and continue operations, learning from their mistakes. If we are serious about stopping the threat on the border, we have to dismantle the criminal organizations that carry the contraband and take away the tools that make them so effective.

What is needed, says Goddard, is a border-defense strategy that is “intelligence driven and multi-level.” It must target both the cartel leadership and the many subcontractors who work for them. And it must target cartel organization from every possible angle:

Whatever makes the cartel organizations strong must be attacked. Their communication systems must be cracked, jammed, and shut down. Their leaders must be identified, arrested, and incarcerated. Most important, the illegal flow of funds across the border into cartel pockets must be disrupted, interrupted, and stopped.

Goddard is incredulous that “this country has hardly lifted a finger to stop over $40 billion a year in cartel funds pouring across the border.” He calls for the Department of the Treasury to become “a full participant in the effort to stop the cartels by cutting off the illegal transfer of funds” that occurs through banks, wire-transfer companies, import-export businesses, and businesses that issue “stored value instruments.” As he points out, the “physical border is irrelevant to the flow of money; it is the virtual border in cyberspace and currency exchanges that must be defended.”

The current border-enforcement strategy is designed to fail. Goddard writes that “pouring even more money and manpower into enforcement on the border will have little impact as long as the criminal organizations remain intact.” He concludes that “only when the smuggling organizations are dismembered will border defense efforts be equal to the threat. Only then can it truthfully be said that the border is ‘secure.’”

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More States Introduce Costly Immigration Enforcement Bills in 2012

Despite the devastating consequences of state immigration laws in Alabamaand Arizona, legislators in other states have introduced similar enforcement bills this year. Legislators in MississippiMissouri,Tennessee and Virginia introduced an array of costly immigration enforcement bills in their 2012 legislative sessions—some which are modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070. While study after study continues to document how these extreme state laws are costing state economies, disrupting entire industries and driving communities further underground, state legislators clearly aren’t getting the message.

Last month, legislators in Mississippi introduced a slew of anti-immigrant bills. State Senator Joey Fillingane, for example, introduced SB 2090, a bill which requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect is undocumented, makes it a crime to fail to carry proper immigration documents and a crime to harbor or transport an undocumented immigrant, and a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to apply for or solicit work. Both the Mississippi House and Senate passed different versions of this bill, but are expected to hammer out one bill to send to Governor Haley Barbour’s desk for a signature soon.

In Missouri, state Senator Will Kraus recently introduced SB 590, a bill which requires police to determine the immigration status of individuals they reasonably suspect are unauthorized and makes it a crime not to carry immigration documents. Missouri’s bill, like Alabama, however takes the law a step further by requiring schools to verify the immigration status of enrolling students and their parents. Remember that the U.S. Department of Justice blocked a similar provision in Alabama’s immigration law, HB 56, last October. Missouri’s legislature passed the bill out of committee last week—a bill likely to cost Missouri millions.

The House Judiciary Committee in Tennessee advanced an immigration bill this month, HB 2191, a bill which makes it a felony for anyone in the state to knowingly conceal, harbor or transport an undocumented immigrant. Tennessee’s copycat bill, HB 1380—which requires police to question the immigration status of those they suspect of being undocumented—was put on hold this month due to budgetary concerns, despite Governor Bill Haslam’s public support of the bill days earlier. HB 1380 was also shelved last year due to $3 million price tag, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, doesn’t seem like he’s giving up.

“Putting it behind the budget doesn’t kill it. It basically parks it,” Carr said. “We are prioritizing the state’s stance on illegal immigration based on the financial resources we have. We’ve got a very targeted approach to tackle illegal immigration here in the state.”

In Virginia, where control of the Governorship, House of Delegates and Senate recently changed hands to those with an enforcement heavy agenda, legislators recently introduced two Arizona copycat bills—SB 460and its companion bill HB 1060—which allow police to determine the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country without documentation. Although SB 460 failed this week after a split vote in the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee, it’s companion bill, HB 1060, was recently assigned to Virginia’s House Courts of Justice Sub-Committee.

And that’s only some of the immigration legislation moving through state legislatures. Other states have introduced other enforcement bills this year, each likely to hurt local businesses, families and state coffers.

Just this week, a report out of the University of Alabama estimated that Alabama stands to lose $11 billion in GDP and nearly $265 million in state income and sales tax due to their extreme immigration enforcement law, HB 56. Utah’s copycat law HB 497 (temporarily blocked last year) has cost the state $85,000 to defend, according to government reports. Arizona lost $490 million in tourism revenue last year, $86 million in lost wages, 2,800 lost jobs and more than $1 million in legal fees in defending SB 1070.

As states continue to move forward on these and other immigration enforcement bills, one wonders how much larger the writing on the wall has to be before state legislators realize these laws are costing taxpayers. Yes we need solutions to our immigration problems, but creating a complicated and costly patchwork of state laws isn’t bringing us any closer to that solution.

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Department of Justice Files Suit Over New Immigration Utah Law

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit against the state of Utah to block the implementation of HB 497, which mandates that local police enforce immigration laws. Several provisions of the law have already been enjoined as a result of previous legal challenges from immigrant rights groups. The DOJ claims that HB 497 violates the Constitution, and the suit is consistent with its other challenges in Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina. Utah’s HB 497 is similar to Arizona’s SB1070, however Utah state legislators attempted to couple the enforcement bill with a state-level guest-worker program. The guest-worker program is not yet being challenged by DOJ, as it does not go into effect until 2013.  

The DOJ continues to appropriately exercise its obligation to preserve the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate immigration and its responsibility to take a stand against laws that will result in profiling, discrimination and the violation of fundamental constitutional rights.  As noted by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, these types of state immigration laws will overload the federal government with referrals and divert scarce resources from the agency’s highest priorities—national security and public safety.

The DOJ press release states that “the law’s mandates on law enforcement could lead to harassment and detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants who are in the process of having their immigration status reviewed in federal proceedings and whom the federal government has permitted to stay in this country while such proceedings are pending.” The reality of that concern was brought home in Alabama when a German Mercedes Benz executive, this week, was arrested under the Alabama anti-immigrant law while he was in town visiting the automaker’s facilities.

“States contemplating copycat laws of their own should carefully study the disastrous consequences unfolding in other states,” said Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “While these laws allegedly target undocumented immigrants, the impact on business, families and communities proves that the laws are, in fact, a burden and a threat to the well-being of all residents in these states. Congress must act on a federal solution or risk further challenges to their authority over immigration.”

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Report Debunks Myth that High-Skilled Immigrants Steal American Jobs

It is an article of faith among anti-immigrant activists that immigration results in fewer jobs and lower wages for native-born workers. For instance, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) recently released a report in which it claims that native-born workers with science and engineering (S&E) degrees are being driven en masse into non-S&E occupations due to competition from foreign-born workers willing to accept lower wages. However, in its rush to blame immigrants, FAIR misses a highly salient detail: a growing number of jobs in non-S&E occupations require or reward S&E skills. In other words, native-born workers with S&E degrees aren’t being driven out of S&E occupations by immigrants; they are being lured into non-S&E occupations where their S&E skills are in high demand and command higher salaries.

These are among the findings of a report released last month by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The report, entitled STEM, presents a comprehensive analysis of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) occupations in the United States that is a far cry from the grim portrait painted by FAIR.  Where FAIR sees an immigration-induced glut of S&E workers who earn low wages, the authors of the Georgetown report see just the opposite. According to the report: “High and rising wage premiums are being paid to STEM workers in spite of the increasing global supply. This suggests that the demand for these workers is not being met.”

Moreover, this demand is not only coming from industries that traditionally hire STEM workers. It’s coming from industries like Professional and Business Services, Healthcare Services, Advanced Manufacturing, Mining, and Utilities and Transportation. Employers in these industries are willing to pay top dollar for workers with STEM backgrounds, which has the effect of “diverting” many STEM graduates into non-traditional career paths.

According to the Georgetown report, native-born STEM graduates are the most likely to be “diverted” into non-traditional career paths for a variety of economic, social, and cultural reasons. And this “diversion” of native-born STEM graduates “will continue and likely accelerate in the future.” As a result, there is likely to be “an increasing reliance on foreign-born STEM talent among American employers.” But this is a reflection of high labor demand, not low demand, as FAIR would have us believe.

The findings of the Georgetown report cast serious doubt upon those of the FAIR report. It would seem that FAIR is misreading the nature of the S&E, or STEM, workforce. Native-born S&E workers and recent graduates are moving into non-traditional industries because S&E skills are valued by so many different employers. In other words, they face a wide range of opportunities, not a shortage of options.

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Alabama’s Immigration Law Digs Deeper Hole for State Economy

Although some Alabama lawmakers credit the state’s overall drop in unemployment to their new immigration law (HB 56), the reality is that many industries and sectors in the state are losing workers and jobs. This week, the Birmingham News reported that Alabama’s construction industry is losing jobs faster than nearly any other state—a loss experts say is due in part to HB 56’s draconian provisions. To make matters worse, Alabama’s crackdown on those who look or sound foreign (a Honda employee stopped this week and the arrest of a Mercedes executive last week) is causing many to fear Alabama’s anti-immigrant reputation will detract foreign investors from doing business in the state. In fact, according to the Tuscaloosa News, “the law is becoming the greatest threat to the state’s economy and job creation, overshadowing even the record-setting bankruptcy of Jefferson County.”

This week, the Associated General Contractors found that construction-related employment in Alabama fell from 85,900 in June (when the law passed) to 80,700 in October. Construction employment also fell in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area from 24,900 in June to 23,800 in October according to the group. Henry Hagood, head of Alabama Associated General Contractors chapter, said that although there are many reasons for the drop, “some of it has to do with the immigration law. Crews have left the state. That’s not the only reason for the numbers. Our market is down at the bottom. Every little thing, when you don’t have as much work, contributes to it.”

Samuel Addy, an economist at the University of Alabama, estimated that Alabama’s economy will shrink by $40 million if undocumented workers are driven from the state since U.S. workers are unlikely to fill those jobs.

“Only a small number of jobs vacated by illegal workers will be filled by legal residents,” Addy said, “so the state will suffer a net loss in productivity. It reduces demand … the economy will contract.”

And the law’s broad enforcement requirements aren’t helping the state’s reputation either. Following the ticketing of Honda employee this week and the arrest of Mercedes executive last week, experts worry that Alabama’s law will damage the state’s prospects for future investment. Mercedes—as well as Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai—currently have manufacturing plants in Alabama which create thousands of jobs and generate billions in economic benefits.

Leading business consultant Mark Sweeney—whose job is to scout locations for companies such as Boeing, Caterpillar, Mercedes and Michelin for future invest—however, said Alabama’s immigration law isn’t doing the state any favors.

“There’s nothing good about it. I can’t see any positives in terms of economic development … Alabama has worked so hard to reinvent itself as a destination for global manufacturing. It’s really been a remarkable transformation,” he said. “Unfortunately, this law really is counter to that effort.”

Although concerns such as labor costs, tax rates, and land availability often factor into companies investment decisions, “softer measures” like quality of life, business climate, schools and welcoming environments also play a roll, Sweeney said.  “It all matters. It could come into play at the end, when they’re trying to make a final decision and it’s a very close call … The scary thing is, you may be losing prospects that you never even know about.”

Just this week, in fact, the Tuscaloosa News reported that a Chinese company is thinking twice about putting a $100 million plant in Thomasville, Alabama because “they feel they aren’t welcome because of the immigration law.”

While Alabama lawmakers have discussed “tweaking” the law to account for its effect on businesses, they are adamant about not repealing it. Further enforcement of HB 56, however, will only continue to paint the state as anti-immigrant and drive business elsewhere. Apparently, appearing tough on immigration is more important to Alabama legislators than the economic well-being of their state.

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Declining Cities Look to Immigrants to Revitalize Economies and Increase University Enrollment

In a recent speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg highlightedthe vital role immigrants play in stimulating economic growth. Bloomberg called for immigration policies that “spur innovation, increase the number of entrepreneurs who start businesses here, and create jobs for Americans on every rung of the economic ladder.” With U.S. unemployment still hovering around 9%, some declining U.S. cities are also looking to harness the economic and entrepreneurial power of immigrants. Small towns, particularly in America’s rust belt, are contemplating programs that attract immigrant growth in hopes of revitalizing their towns and universities.

Take Dayton, Ohio, which is facing its lowest population level since 1920. State legislators are voting this week on whether to pursue the “Welcome Dayton Plan”—a new campaign designed to encourage immigration and economic growth. The plan includes the expansion of integration services, like interpretation services at city departments, as well as public events geared toward immigrants. Tom Wahlrab of Dayton’s Human Relations Department believes the city should welcome such a campaign.

“I believe the city of Dayton is at a crossroads,” said Wahlrab, according to the Dayton Daily News. “We can either welcome them, help integrate them, help them on the path to citizenship, or we can let old stereotypes and fears and preconceptions hinder our success.”

Ohio isn’t alone. Over a decade ago, Iowa faced a declining population and passed proposals to make Iowa an “immigration enterprise zone.” According to the New York Times, “in recent years, immigrants from Bosnia, Sudan, and especially Mexico have been the only reason Iowa’s population has had any net growth.”

These new immigration initiatives also focus on increasing college and university enrollment. In early 2011, Michigan’s governor organized a program called “Global Michigan,” an effort to target international students and skilled immigrants in response to population decline. And for good reason. Back in 2002, the struggling mill town of Lewiston, Maine saw the influx of roughly 3,500 Somali immigrants—a population who not only opened new businesses and contributed to the local economy and job growth, but increased university enrollment by nearly 16% from 2002 to 2007.

As small towns across America continue to face high unemployment rates, sluggish economies and decreasing populations, campaigns that welcome and integrate immigrants rather than drive them away may result in the new business, job and economic growth these declining cities so desperately need.

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