Monday, April 7, 2008

State Enforcement of Illegal Immigration Laws

On my campaign web site, I've mentioned that Arizona is starting to aggressively pursue employers who are hiring illegal aliens. This April 5, 2008 Los Angeles Times story, of course, tries to portray this as a bad situation--but even they manage to admit that it is having some positive effects:
"What I love about what Arizona is doing is we don't have to rely on the federal government," said state Rep. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican who has authored most of the toughest measures. "It has truly woken up the rest of America that states can fix that problem."

The campaign has had an effect: Illegal immigrants complain it's impossible to find good work and are leaving the state.


No one knows how many immigrants have left the state, and the most recent government figures show Arizona growing robustly -- as of July, Maricopa was the fastest-growing county in the nation.

But enough immigrants have left that the government of Sonora, the Mexican state bordering Arizona, has complained about how many people have arrived on its doorstep.

Pearce says the overall effect has been undeniably positive for Arizona. "Smaller class sizes, shorter emergency room waits," he said. "Even if [illegal immigrants] are paying taxes -- and most of them aren't -- the cost to taxpayers is huge."

The biggest effect has come from the new employer sanctions law, which took effect in January.

The law is fairly straightforward.

Any business caught hiring illegal immigrants is put on probation. If it is caught doing the same thing again, the state revokes its business license.

The only defense for an employer is if it used E-Verify, a federal pilot project to allow businesses to confirm the legality of their laborers.
I'm not surprised that Republicans who are allied with business interests want to keep the supply of labor pouring into the U.S. It drives down wages. Illegal immigrants are much less likely to complain to government agencies about violations of labor law or safety issues, for fear of being identified and deported. And because illegal immigrants tend to be here for relatively short periods of time (months, rather than a lifetime), they are generally less inclined to join a labor union. What amazes me is that many Democrats are prepared to defend illegal immigration--when all of these issues should be reasons for Democrats to demand enforcement of our current laws.

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