Beginning in 2010, state legislatures around the country have seriously begun to consider enacting harsh anti-immigration laws meant to curb the number of illegal residents. In that time, three states have garnered enough support to push through such laws: Arizona, Alabama and Georgia.
In 2012, several more states have put anti-immigration laws on the table. Supporters of these laws claim that a reduction in the number of illegal immigrants will open new jobs for U.S. citizens and legal residents while saving each state millions of dollars.
Some immigration attorneys in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia have seen an increase in business as these laws have been passed. However, several organizations established and run by immigration attorneys, including the American Immigration Council, have compiled statistics showing that anti-immigration laws are actually hindering economic growth.
Strict immigration legislation aimed at reducing illegal immigrants has had severe negative effects on the economy, and the costs associated with the implementation and enforcement of these laws are causing states to lose millions of dollars.
Overall Economic Impact
Immigration attorneys have collaborated with some of the top economists in the United States to uncover the total cost to the economy in states that have implemented anti-immigration laws.
According to Professor Samuel Addy, an economic researcher at the University of Alabama, the laws in that state are set to reduce the gross domestic product (GDP) by nearly $11 billion. If the state meets its goal of deporting 40,000 to 80,000 illegal immigrants, the resulting economic loss could be devastating. Consequences to the economy include the following:
- Up to 140,000 jobs worth $5.8 billion in earnings will be lost.
- The state’s GDP will fall by up to 6.2 percent.
- Up to $264 million dollars will be lost from state income and sales taxes.
- Up to $93 million will be lost in local sales tax.
Studies in Arizona conducted by Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda and Marshall Fitz reached similar conclusions as to the economic impact of anti-immigration laws. If all of the unauthorized immigrants in Arizona were to be deported, employment would be reduced by 17.2 percent and the number of jobs available in the state would fall by 581,000. In addition, the state’s economy would decrease by a staggering $48.8 billion, and tax revenues would decrease by 10.1 percent.
Immigration attorneys have warned states that anti-immigration laws will produce severe shortages in the available workforce. The agricultural industries in Georgia and Alabama have already suffered great losses due to a shortage of workers.
After Georgia passed its anti-immigration law, 56 percent of agricultural businesses reported severe labor shortages and early estimates of the agricultural losses in 2011 range from $300 million to $1 billion.
In preparation for the labor shortages expected in Alabama, where nearly one-fifth of all jobs are agricultural, growers are planting less than their full capacity.
Increased Operating Costs for Businesses
Most anti-immigration laws stipulate that businesses are partially responsible for enforcement. In Indiana, one of the state’s largest employers has stated that the economic impact to the company will be sizable should the immigration enforcement bill become law. Eli Lilly currently employs 90,000 people and has an economic output of $22.7 billion, but company officials will be forced to consider relocation should the law pass.
Some states are mandating that small businesses run all current and prospective employees through the E-Verify system to confirm legal status. This would cost an average of $435 per year. In addition, companies will be forced to take costly preventative measures in order to avoid accidentally conflicting with the law and incurring stiff penalties.
Cost of Implementation and Enforcement
According to leading immigration attorneys, the costs of implementing and enforcing anti-immigration laws are enormous. Estimates of the costs are as follows:
- Implementation of anti-immigration laws costs a state between $3 million and $11 million.
- Enforcement of the laws could cost each state up to $89 million per year. Such costs would affect police departments, courts, schools and other state agencies.
- Defending the laws in court will incur additional costs. Utah’s proposed immigration control bill has cost the state $85,000 to defend in federal court, and Arizona has spent over $1.5 million defending its strict immigration laws in the first year alone.
Any immigrants who have been ensnared by new anti-immigration laws still have a chance to fight back. Legal experts recommend anyone facing deportation to contact an experienced and dedicated immigration attorney to discuss the available options.