Arizona Rethinks Immigration Policy: it’s the Economy, Stupid!

Arizona, once a trailblazer in cracking down on illegal immigration, is rethinking its ways.

While a number of states jumped on the Arizona bandwagon and copied the state’s illegal immigration laws in an effort to reduce their unemployment rate and rev up the local economy, it’s becoming clear that the laws’ unintended consequences, in particular to the economy, have been severe. Studies show that jobs are being lost, GDP is shrinking, and tax revenue is declining.

To stop the downward spiral, public and private leaders in Arizona introduced what is called the “Arizona Accord” last month, which seeks to recognize the contributions immigrants have made and strike a more conciliatory tone towards both the federal government, which took the states to court over the laws, and immigrants themselves.

Indeed, the architect of the original 2010 Arizona immigration law, Republican state Senator Russell Pearce, was ousted from office last November. His electorate preferred Jerry Lewis, a Senate candidate who promised less confrontational immigration policies.

The last Arizona legislative session also saw five illegal immigration proposals defeated. The current session has broadly supported bills circulating that would soften existing illegal immigration laws. Still, there are also two bills that call for stricter measures. Their sponsor, Republican state Senator Steve Smith explains, “I don’t have to listen to the business community and CEOs.”

That may be true. In the end, though, it is often enough the economy that makes the ultimate decision.

(c) Picture: Arizona Secretary of State

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