- Policy Resources
- News & Analysis
- Your State
Arizona and the Nation: A Failing State Versus Positive Approaches to Immigrant Integration
PSN on May 3, 2010 - 1:51pm
Arizona and the Nation: A Failing State Versus Positive Approaches to Immigrant Integration
Monday, May 3, 2010
Arizona and the Nation: A Failing State Versus Positive Approaches to Immigrant Integration
As we highlighted two weeks ago, the Arizona legislature and Governor's decisions to pass a punitive, anti-immigrant bill - SB1070 - have unleashed a torrent of condemnations inside and outside of Arizona. Voices speaking up against the bill have come not only from civil rights organizations, but have also included public safety officials, constitutional legal scholars, and, significantly, Republican leaders and candidates from other states with significant immigrant populations.
While Arizona's extreme, draconian law is grabbing headlines, what's gotten less attention is how Arizona is an isolated case with increasingly anti-immigrant laws and policies advanced over the last few years. A handful of states have joined Arizona in its punitive approach to immigration, yet the often-ignored reality is that the vast majority of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, live in states that have promoted far more humane and successful approaches emphasizing immigrant integration into local economies and communities.
As this Dispatch will detail, Arizona has blazed its own (misguided) path on immigration, which reflects dysfunctional right-wing politics that have driven the state into an economic disaster of low wages, mass-foreclosures and a punishing fiscal crisis. Grandstanding on race may be Arizona's substitute for grappling with its deep, systematic economic problems, but few other states have followed its lead in recent years, and even fewer seem likely to follow it on SB1070.
SB1070 highlights the need for more systematic campaigns to deepen immigrant integration policies in the states and for passage of federal comprehensive immigration reform to address the border and the need for legalization. The economic gains from positive reforms on immigration are too large to ignore at both the state and federal level.
We invite state legislators to join State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy (SLPIP) and other allies to sign up with PSN's State Immigration Project for updates on promoting progressive state immigration policy by emailing email@example.com.
As we described two weeks ago, SB1070 is a radical anti-immigrant piece of legislation that will open the floodgates to racial profiling and abuses of civil liberties. The law will be challenged in court for both violating individual rights and being an illegal assertion of state authority given the federal government's primary responsibility for border and immigration matters. But in the meantime, the effects of its implementation will be sweeping, since the law:
SB1070 Is a Product of a Racist, Anti-Immigrant National Network: The sweep of the law is hardly accidental, since it is the product of a national network of anti-immigrant groups tied to racist hate groups. As the Center for New Community noted in a recent email update:
Kris Kobach, a Kansas law professor now running for Kansas Secretary of State, is the chief author of the bill, as emails recently revealed. Kobach was a top immigration advisor to John Ashcroft at the Justice Department who promoted national racial profiling of legal U.S. residents post-September 11th. He also drafted the local anti-immigrant ordinance for Hazelton, PA, which was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2007.
With an eye on empowering allied groups like FAIR and related anti-immigrant groups, SB1070 is designed to allow them to sue local law enforcement agencies if they believe that are not adequately enforcing the new law, giving the right-wing new tools to control local police departments under threat of litigation.
Unsurprisingly, a wide range of civil rights, labor, community and immigrant rights organizations within Arizona and the nation have condemned the law. The opposition to the bill has extended to law enforcement officers, legal experts and even Republican leaders in other states with large immigrant populations.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush noted, "I think it creates unintended consequences. It's difficult for me to imagine how you're going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well." Even Republican strategist Karl Rove echoed, "I think there is going to be some constitutional problems with the bill. I wished they hadn't passed it, in a way."
Within Arizona, it is notable that the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police has opposed the law on both fiscal and public safety grounds, since they worry that fear of government officials by immigrant populations will diminish the public’s willingness to cooperate with police in criminal investigations and will “negatively affect the ability of law enforcement agencies across the state to fulfill their many responsibilities in a timely manner.”
The President of the American Bar Association in a statement said, "It is, quite simply put, a law based on prejudice and fear, one whose purpose is to be divisive. This law encourages second-class treatment of individuals based on the color of their skin, and that is unacceptable."
Most telling for how out of step Arizona leaders have been are statements by Republican state leaders from states with large immigrant populations:
When conservative stars like Marco Rubio and Rick Perry think a law is too extreme, it's clear Arizona's leaders have moved into their own corner of anti-immigrant extremism.
If other state leaders, even conservative ones from border states like Texas, are not rushing to copy SB1070, it's because whatever their partisan politics, they don't share the peculiar brand of pathological right-wing politics and the hollow economy that has left Arizona such a political and economic basket case.
Other states have grappled with a range of programs to reform their economies and budgets during the current economic crisis. That Arizona's claim to fame in this crisis is immigrant bashing in the form of SB1070 is symbolic of years, even decades of failed political and economic policies. That Arizona politics has promoted low-wage jobs that have left state residents with falling individual incomes relative to the rest of the nation and conditions for the state's children that rank at the bottom of the nation. Since the current economic recession began in December 2007, Arizona has lost 265,000 jobs, or 9.9 percent of the state's employment. And with little else to offer the unemployed, scapegoating immigrants has become a substitute in Arizona for having a real solution to solving the economic needs of its residents.
Individual Incomes Fall Behind the Nation: For decades, Arizona's average wages and income have been falling behind other states. A University of Arizona business school study from 2005 noted that "over the long term, the real income of the average Arizonan has lagged behind the rest of the nation... Arizona slipped from 94 percent of the U.S. level in 1970 to 86 percent in 2003." While the bubble economy in the state of the mid-decade gave a slight bump to individual incomes in the state, per capita income fell 4 percent from 2008 to 2009 after having been stagnant for the previous two years, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reported. Arizona was tied for fourth place with Idaho in having the highest drop in personal incomes per capita. Nationally, the decline last year was 2.6 percent.
An Economy Built on a Construction Bubble: The Urban Land Institute has referred to Phoenix as the "poster child" for the housing downturn and bad mortgages. The average price paid for office space in the Phoenix metro area tumbled more than 50 percent one year in 2009. Back in 2006, when growth peaked, about 30 percent of the Phoenix area’s economic output was tied to real estate and construction; subtract that bubble economic engine and even the nominal job growth in the state during the last decade collapsed into unemployment and foreclosures.
Part of the problem is that state leaders encouraged a low-wage, bubble-based economic strategy that added a mirage of job and population growth during the last decade, but left the state with poor fundamentals for long-term growth when the financial bubble collapsed nationally. Highlighting the weak economic underpinnings of the state economy, the Arizona Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area ranked near the bottom, 192nd of 200 metro areas, for growth in high-tech gross domestic product from 2003 through 2008, according to the Milken Institute.
Fiscal Solutions More Irresponsible Than Any in Nation: Arizona's fiscal crisis is considered one of the worst in the country by the Pew Center on the States. Since 1992, the state has approved 42 tax cuts to its three major revenue sources -- personal and corporate income, and sales -- and eliminated statewide property taxes that accrued to the general fund-- and despite promises of right-wing economic nirvana, the results have been low personal income growth and a generally low-level of resources for human needs.
Arizona has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, 18.9 percent of the state lacks health insurance and 276,500 Arizona children do not have coverage. In the most recent Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual "Kids Count" report, Arizona ranked 40th in the nation in child well-being, one of the worst in the nation for its teen birth rate (46th), high-school dropout rate (46th) and percentage of children not attending school and not working (44th).
But what truly distinguishes Arizona is its right-wing, inhumane and short-sighted approaches to addressing its current fiscal problems:
And this has been combined with a whole range of other right-wing and just plain kooky laws promoted by the Arizona's legislature.
SB1070 Will Make Arizona's Economic Problems Worse: Passing SB1070 will simply deepen the state's economic crisis. As the National Employment Law Project points out, smaller-scale anti-immigrant ordinances have cost individual localities millions of dollars. And other studies estimate SB1070 will further decimate Arizona's economy by driving immigrant families, undocumented and legal residents alike, from the state, further depressing demands for goods and already vacant housing tracts.
The Arizona Republic detailed, "More than 100,000 undocumented immigrants have left Arizona in the past two years because of the bad economy and earlier enforcement crackdowns. Now, a new wave of Latinos is preparing to leave."
"So, rather than massive deportations, we are basically going to encourage them to leave on their own," said State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who is also a criminal-justice professor at Scottsdale Community College. But even he admits that the law will likely drive legal residents and their families out of the state.
The Texas-based Perryman Group found if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Arizona, the state would lose $26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 140,324 jobs.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and other local leaders anticipate a drop in new business creation in the state because of the new hostile environment. Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski observed: “We’re the laughing stock of the country because of these crazy laws.”
Despite much media hype, most states with high concentrations of undocumented and legal immigrants have rejected the punitive approach of Arizona and a handful of like-minded states. Most states have quietly been moving forward with positive, integrative approaches to new immigrants in their communities.
As PSN detailed in a report in 2008 -- and the basic numbers have changed little since then -- only 11% of undocumented immigrants live in states that have enacted comprehensive punitive policies or sanctions in private workplaces against undocumented workers.
Most Undocumented Residents Live in States with Integration Policies: Instead, a significant majority of undocumented immigrants live in states with positive integrative or somewhat integrative policies. As detailed in a section below, with the right state policies, new immigrants bring new skills, business startups and economic growth-- and most states with experience with new immigrants have promoted policies to tap that economic growth potential.
Many states, including many of those where most undocumented immigrants live such as Texas and California, now provide in-state tuition (so-called DREAM Acts) for undocumented immigrants going to public universities. Others are promoting policies to integrate immigrants through English language instruction and assistance in navigating the citizenship process. A number of states such as Illinois and New York are providing health insurance to undocumented children. And instead of trying to punish immigrant workers, states are increasingly working with native and immigrant workers to crack down on bad employers who are violating minimum wage, safety and workers compensation laws.
In fact, over 50% of undocumented immigrants live in states that provide in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant children and nearly the same majority of undocumented immigrants live in states that are promoting "New Americans" policies to better educate new immigrants and nearly a majority also live in states that have recently enacted new penalties for wage law violations in order to raise wages for all workers, native and immigrant alike. See the chart for a comparison of the more pervasive positive approaches to immigration compared to the minority punitive approach.
The media largely rewards the tactics of political opportunists who to use the issue of immigration as a "wedge" issue, but ignore the political and economic success of other states in integrating new immigrants into their state economies and communities.
A State Agenda for Progressive Immigration Policy: As we highlighted in our Dispatch, State Immigration Policy to Promote National Change, there are a range of positive state policies that can improve the lives of immigrants and raise living standards and public safety for everyone, native and immigrant alike. These include:
Smart state policy proposals that emphasize the areas where the public is supportive of immigrant integration into our communities are both smart policy and smart politics. By better controlling the debate at the local and state level, progressives can help build support for federal reforms to regularize the legal status of undocumented immigrants and build a path to citizenship. Such strategies can isolate those who promote the scapegoating of immigrants and instead emphasize the issues that will benefit everyone, from wage law enforcement to integrating new immigrants into our local economies.
If SB1070 accomplishes anything, it will be to focus national attention on why it is critical to revamp and improve federal immigration laws. Those on both sides of the partisan aisle overwhelmingly agree the nation's immigration system is broken, and long overdue for an update.
While federal law essentially decides who can legally enter the US and determines immigrants' eligibility for most services and benefits (according to federal immigration law, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most public benefits apart from emergency room medical care), states have considerable jurisdiction over immigrants' access to some basic services and programs - such as, for example, New York state's decision to provide basic prenatal health care for women -- regardless of their immigration status -- as well as how state and local government (including law enforcement officers) interact with immigrant residents.
As noted above, most states have engaged immigration in a more positive manner: for example, several states (including Utah and Texas) extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students who attend state universities and colleges. But given the given the federal vacuum on immigration, some states like Arizona will inevitably take matters into their own hands in a punitive direction.
The last comprehensive immigration reform, enacted in 1986 by Republican President Ronald Reagan, included a large-scale legalization program that allowed roughly 3 million undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status. Despite attempts at immigration reform in 2001, 2006, and 2007, there has been no significant change in the status quo of immigration policy since 1986. The longer the nation is forced to wait for federal immigration reform, the more states will make patchwork attempts to address immigration at the state level and the more opportunities there are for states to take misguided and economically disastrous approaches to immigration policy such as Arizona's.
Proposed Federal Reforms Promote Compromise Solution: The most recent proposal, unveiled by Senators Menendez, Reid, and Schumer, outlines a number of provisions to address the crisis:
Several recent academic studies have underscored the economic benefits that a large-scale legalization program would bring to the US economy and households, despite the current flawed conventional wisdom that legalization would cause already-high unemployment rates to rise.
A study by Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Oveda of the University of California - Los Angeles uses the economic impact of the 1986 legalization program (one that also occurred during an economic recession with high unemployment) to forecast how a legalization program would affect the current economy. His analysis found a legalization program would yield at least $1.5 trillion in gross domestic product over a ten-year period. Legalization would allow undocumented workers to emerge from the underground economy, and would, as a result, raise not only their wages but those of their native-born counterparts, raising the wage floor for many workers. Increased wages would, in turn, fuel increased purchasing power and homeownership among newly-legalized immigrants, injecting billions, if not trillions, of dollars into the US economy as a whole.
Libertarians also echo the belief that immigrants, even those working in low-wage sectors, expand the American economy. According to this commentary analysis from the libertarian CATO Institute, "the addition of low-skilled immigrants expands the size of the overall economy, creating higher-wage openings for managers, craftsmen, accountants, and the like." Undocumented immigrants are typically low-income, but they are almost all employed. According to estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center, male undocumented immigrants, ages 18 to 64, had a labor-force participation rate in 2004 of an amazing 92 percent.
Other studies have found wage levels of low-wage immigrant workers increase by as much as 30 percent when they improve their English fluency by just one level, because they are able to advocate for themselves more effectively in the workplace - a powerful testimony to increasing state and federal funding for English as a Second Language classes.
Finally, federal, state, and local tax bases would benefit significantly from the increased earnings and purchasing power of newly-legalized immigrants. The Social Security Administration estimates that roughly 75% of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes. In fact, the Drum Major Institute notes that undocumented workers already are largely responsible for the future viability of the Social Security system with their $7 billion in annual tax contributions - most which they will never be able to access. And the President's Council of Economic Advisors found that US natives gain an estimated $37 billion annually from immigrants' economic contributions as a whole.
To defeat anti-immigrant attacks, the key for progressives is to proactively use smart policy campaigns to change the public debate on immigration both at the state and national level. Globalization is driving economic changes, including immigration, that cause fear and uncertainty for many voters, but if progressives promote economic and social policies that address the broader needs of working families and propose a vision of how to effectively integrate new immigrants into our communities, there is no sustained majority for punitive measures against undocumented immigrants.
Beyond individual policy options, advocates and elected leaders need to emphasize that the coalition in support of humane policies involving new immigrants is diverse and cuts into even many seemingly conservative communities. Elected leaders can build on traditional support from many African-American leaders to labor unions to forge alliances with forward-looking business leaders and religious leaders, including many evangelicals, who recognize that smart, humane immigration policies for our communities is a source of both moral and social strength.
Anti-Immigrant Conservatives Playing a Losing Game: And the dangerous reality for anti-immigrant conservatives is that they are playing a losing demographic game, with new legal immigrants voting in increasing numbers that will punish any party or ideological group that promotes racist approaches to the immigration issue -- one reason many Republican leaders are denouncing SB1070 so quickly.
There were 10 million Latino voters in 2008, an increase of 4 million since 2000. And a May 2009 poll of Latino voters found that 82% of Latino voters felt immigration was important to them and their families. Punitive approaches like SB1070 will inevitably impel a negative reaction, with nearly six-in-ten (57%) Latinos in a 2008 Pew Hispanic Center survey, saying they worried that they themselves or a friend or family member would be deported as a result of similar policies.
Conclusion: Humane immigration politics are also smart politics in the long-term, since the present coalition for progressive immigration policy is rapidly being joined by new citizens who are unlikely to forgive politicians who vote for racial profiling or other attacks on their communities. Ultimately, in an increasingly diverse nation, there is no long-term political future for politicians pushing these anti-immigrant laws. Elected officials who step up with intelligent, humane policies on immigration will both build a stronger economy and society in their states and win politically in the long-term.
SB1070: Legalizing Racial Profiling, Violating Federalism
Progressive States Network - Arizona Risks Jeopardizing its Economic Future as it Contemplates Passing Anti-Immigrant Law
Think Progress - Arizona Expands Its Discrimination: Teachers With Heavy Accents Can’t Teach English, Ethnic Studies Are Banned
Progressive States Network - State Immigration Policy to Promote National Change
American Immigration Lawyers Association - Analysis of Senate Democrats Immigration Reform Proposal
Immigration Policy Center - The Fiscal Bottom Line on Immigration Reform
Progressive States Network -State Policymakers Need to Respond to Growing Clout of Latino Voters Nationwide
The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:
Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.