Monday, February 27, 2012

Anti-Immigrant Mormons Set To Save Romney's Ass In Arizona Mañana


Predictably, Arizona's accidental and very tragic governor, Jan Brewer, endorsed the GOP Establishment candidate for her party's presidential nomination. That what's she's programmed to do so it would have only had been news if she had endorsed one of the other lunatics. But in a state where Mormons vote in enough of a lockstep bloc to have disproportionate power inside the state GOP, there was never any question about what Brewer would do-- regardless of the noisy, embarrassing kerfuffle over Romney campaign co-chair, Sheriff Babeu, and his immigrant boyfriend, Jose.

Nor should it be news to anyone that what the polarizing cloddish Brewer is best known for one thing: her hysterical anti-immigrant mania. She's led her state into a shameful anti-Hispanic kind of ethnic cleansing that is reminiscent of the pre-gas chamber Nazis. Two weeks ago we talked about the shame of Alabama's anti-immigrant policies. The difference is that Alabama doesn't have many Hispanics. Arizona does-- and always has... long before there were non-Hispanics, in fact. But the Republican Party there-- like in Alabama-- wants to drive them out of the state.

I've been quoting Joshua Holland's book, The 15 Biggest Lies About The Economy, a lot and he has a whole chapter (i.e., the debunking of a whole web of lies, about the GOP anti-immigrant myths). Let me just focus on a brief summary in honor of tomorrow's primary ion that state and Romney's assertion that Arizona's policy of ethnic cleansing should be a model for the whole country:
Reaction to the bill was swift. Within weeks of the law’s passage, two of Arizona’s largest cities, Flagstaff and Tucson, announced that they were suing to block the law. A boycott of Arizona goods and services was called. The Boston, Los Angeles, and Oakland city councils stopped doing business in the state, and, as of this writing, New York and Washington, D.C., were considering following suit. San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado, suspended all official travel to the Copper State. According to the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, nineteen conferences were canceled just in the first week after the bill was signed.

According to an analysis by the Immigration Policy Center, “If significant numbers of immigrants and Latinos are actually persuaded to leave the state because of this new law, they will take their tax dollars, businesses, and purchasing power with them.”

The University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy estimates that the total economic output attributable to Arizona’s immigrant workers was $44 billion in 2004, which sustained roughly 400,000 full-time jobs. Furthermore, over 35,000 businesses in Arizona are Latino-owned and had sales and receipts of $4.3 billion and employed 39,363 people in 2002, the last year for which data is available. The Perryman Group estimates that 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, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time.

Again, the federal government has exclusive domain over regulating immigration to the United States, so Arizona’s law is unlikely to withstand legal challenges. But if it does, what follows would be utterly predictable: the state not only will lose out on tourism and international business travel, but a huge share of its workforce, both legal and otherwise, will also seek less nasty climes. Arizona will face enormous litigation costs, and local police agencies will start to complain that they don’t have the resources to enforce other laws. Brand Arizona will continue to take a pummeling, companies will face a whole new set of hiring challenges, and the state’s business community will start to complain. Eventually, the very same lawmakers who pushed the new law will admit that it didn’t work out as they’d intended.

I say this with the confidence born of past experience. In 2007, Arizona passed another tough “enforcement only” immigration law, which mandated the use of an (unreliable) electronic verification system and subjected employers to the loss of their business licenses for hiring the wrong people. It turned out to be a disaster that might rank up there with the Edsel or New Coke in the pantheon of bone-headed ideas.

The state had a very low unemployment rate when the law was passed-- it was, at least in part, a “solution” to a problem that Arizona didn’t have. Unemployment was at 4.1 percent when the law went into effect in early 2008 and had been at 3.7 percent when a judge upheld the measure a year earlier. By the middle of 2008, lawmakers were scrambling to undo the shock they’d inflicted on the state, as up to 8 percent of the population-- according to one estimate-- decided to hightail it out of Arizona en masse. The state faced new labor shortages, as well as a loss in demand from all of those worker-consumers. Eventually, the law was amended, in part due to pressure from Arizona businesses.

The people of Arizona learned the hard way that immigrants not only supply labor, but also demand goods and services in turn. In addition, they learned that newer immigrant communities have a mix of people with different legal statuses all jumbled together, and that when there’s a widespread perception that politicians (and citizens) are attacking immigrants, it doesn’t much matter that some people differentiate between those who are “legal” and “illegal”-- Arizona lost plenty of citizens and lawful permanent residents with that drop in population.

A University of Arizona study concluded that economic output in Arizona would drop 8.2 percent annually if foreign-born workers left the state’s labor force. “Getting rid of these workers means we are deciding as a matter of policy to shrink our economy,” Judith Gans, an immigration scholar at the university’s Udall Center, told the Wall Street Journal. “They’re filling vital gaps in our labor force.”

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