Arizona-Copycat Bills Losing Favor?03 Feb 2011
Here in Baltimore, as winter rages on, one begins to look for hopeful signs: the first green shoots poking through the snow, the start of spring training for the coming baseball season, anything to take the edge off an austere, demanding time of year. In politics, too, one scans the horizon for hopeful signs of better things to come, such as the encouraging news, mostly from the American south and west, that state legislatures are beginning to have second thoughts about the Arizona-style immigration bills that seemed all the rage a few short weeks ago. (See Arizona-Inspired Immigration Bills Lose Momentum in Other States, by Lois Romano, Washington Post, 29.Jan.2011.) According to the Washington Post, these attention-grabbing measures have been upstaged by the gigantic, scene-stealing cost of their enforcement – a major consideration for states facing budget deficits of epic proportions. The cost of defending the measures in court is another obstacle, the Post reports, noting that:
“…In the nine months since the Arizona measure was signed into law, a number of similar bills have stalled or died or are being reworked. Some have faced resistance from law enforcement officials who question how states or communities could afford the added cost of enforcing the laws. …”
At present, legislation similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070 has been drafted in Georgia, Mississippi, Indiana, Florida, Nebraska, Kentucky, Utah, Pennsylvania, Texas, and South Carolina, according to the Washington Post. Mark Krikorian, director of an immigration-restrictionist organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Post that “There’s always an initial flush of enthusiasm and then the reality of politics sets in. …These states are bankrupt – they need to decide what battles they want to fight.”
Beyond the steep enforcement costs and the mountain of legal fees it would take to defend state immigration laws in court, each state needs to consider the costs to its reputation, were it to pass an Arizona-like immigration bill. States look foolish trying to pass legislation in areas – like immigration – where federal prerogatives reign supreme. As the Post points out, states also risk losing a significant amount of business, as Arizona learned after it passed S.B. 1070, and now “… has seen conventions canceled and overall tourism decline. One study, by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, reported that boycotts could end up costing Arizona upwards of $250 million in tax revenue, wages, and visitor expenditures, a figure some state and business leaders have disputed as high.”
Taken together, all of these costs must be weighed against the putative benefits of a law that seems certain to generate ugly, divisive incidents of racial profiling, of citizens being arrested and mistreated for simply looking or sounding foreign, of Latinos being singled out for treatment that will make them think long and hard about ever voting for the people – or the party – that pushes these policies through. One hopes that all of these considerations will shift the prevailing political winds in a more temperate direction.