Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070; a good Immigration Policy?

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Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070; A Good Immigration Policy?
Margaret Spring Lonneker

Table of Contents

Senate Bill 1070 Overview……………………………………………………………………….5

Arizona Before SB 1070………………………………………………………………………….7

287(g): A Similar Enforcement Strategy……………………………………………………...13

Estimated Economic and Social Benefits of SB 1070…………………………………………15

Estimated Economic and Social Costs of SB 1070……………………………………………16


Policy Recommendations……………………………………………………………………….20


With a total population of 6,595,778, as of 2009, Arizona has a foreign born population of at least 12.8%,i and the Department of Homeland Security estimates the undocumented immigrant population to be 460,000 as of January 2009.ii Despite perceptions of an exponentially growing undocumented immigrant population, DHS also reports that this same population has fallen since estimates in 2008, which were estimated to be 560,000. Although it is difficult to verify the exact population of undocumented immigrants in Arizona, it is safe to say that they make up a significant part of the population. This means that hundreds of thousands of people in Arizona are living and working and contributing to communities they are simultaneously excluded from due to their legal status, presenting a dilemma for Arizona politicians, concerned community members, and the undocumented immigrants themselves.

This year, however, Arizona has presented its own solution to the immigration “problem,” as it is often referred to as, with the passage of SB 1070. The bill itself widely debated within Arizona as well as across the United States and internationally, necessitates really thinking about the kinds of immigration reform the U.S. should pursue. An analysis of SB 1070 and its social and economic costs and benefits to Arizona and its communities is necessary to understand whether a similar kind of immigration reform is useful and beneficial for other states or even the U.S. to implement. My goal in this paper is to answer the question: What is SB1070, what are the economic and social costs and benefits of SB 1070, is it actually an answer to the immigration “problem” in Arizona, and if so, is it a probable solution to the U.S. immigration “problem”?

To specify, there are two key elements that I have found arise in discussing the immigration “problem;” the economy and crime. Proponents and Opponents of SB 1070 use economic and crime rhetoric in order to defend their positions concerning SB 1070, leaving confusion as to what the data really imply. In my paper, I will look at evidence surrounding the economic impacts of undocumented immigrants and data recording crime rates and prison populations of undocumented immigrants. For predicting future impacts of SB 1070, aside from using trends, Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office proves a relevant case as it has been implementing similar policies through the 287 G program; turning over 36,983 undocumented immigrants to immigration authorities.iii

Senate Bill 1070 Overview:
As stated in the first section of SB 1070 as amended by HB 2162, the intent of the bill is to: “discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.”iv I will first analyze the implications of the intent of the bill, and then focus on the implications of six key provisions within SB 1070 that call for the most analysis due to their large or potentially large impact on Arizona and its communities:

  1. Not carrying proper documentation regarding immigration status results in a class 1 misdemeanor.

  2. A law enforcement official must request immigration status after making a “lawful stop” if it is accompanied by “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an undocumented immigrant, and upon finding that the person does not have proper documentation, the official may detain the person without warrant.

  3. The transportation or harboring of an undocumented immigrant under the knowledge that the person is undocumented results in a class 1 misdemeanor.

  4. An undocumented immigrant soliciting or performing work is a class 1 misdemeanor.

  5. Stopping a vehicle to pick up undocumented day laborers is a class 1 misdemeanor

  6. Knowingly hiring an undocumented immigrant is a class 1 misdemeanor.

  7. A law enforcement official may not consider race, color, or national origin in enforcing these laws.

  8. A citizen may sue a state official or agency for failing to enforce immigration laws.v

Although provisions one, two, and four were temporarily blocked by Judge Susan Bolton, I will still consider possible economic and social costs and benefits of their implementation, as it is essential to analyze the bill as a whole in order to determine its potential effectiveness at pursuing its intent. The provisions allow two dominant strategies in order to obtain the main objective of the bill: Deterring the economic participation of undocumented immigrants, and allowing local law enforcement to police the presence of undocumented immigrants.

Arizona Before SB 1070:
In order to analyze the economic and social costs of SB 1070, we must first understand the economic and social conditions of Arizona before SB 1070 with regard to the undocumented immigrant population. As I stated earlier, with a population of 460,000 out of 6,595,778 in 2009, undocumented immigrants are estimated to represent 6.9% of Arizona’s total population,vi a large community within Arizona, leading us to question: What constitutes the immigration “problem” that is so often referred to in the immigration debate, and what is the estimated net economic and social impact of undocumented immigration on Arizona?

Before moving forward with an economic and social analysis of the costs and benefits of undocumented immigrants on Arizona, it is important to note that political rhetoric debating whether or not undocumented immigrants belong in the United States assumes that it is possible, desirable, and ethical to remove an entire demographic of the population from their current communities and livelihoods. Nevertheless, the object of this policy recommendation is not to debate the moral implications of such arguments, but simply to show how even an aspiration to removing the undocumented immigrant population (such as the deterrent of immigrant populations in Arizona that SB1070 aspires to) has harmful social and economic effects on Arizona.

There are many factors that contribute to the perception that undocumented immigrants are costing Arizona money. References to welfare, public education, emergency health services, and unemployment allude to a significant net economic cost incurred by undocumented immigrants. To begin with, I will address three recurring claims made by proponents of SB 1070 constituting the immigration “problem” as we witness it in the United States and Arizona. These claims being:

  1. Undocumented immigrants are costly to Arizona

  2. Undocumented immigrants increase crime in Arizona

  3. Undocumented immigrants are increasing drug cartel activity in Arizona

Although there is disagreement on whether or not undocumented immigrants should be legalized or deported, the fact remains: Undocumented immigrants are very integrated into the United States society and economy; they “work in formal businesses, own their own homes, shop in neighborhood stores, attend local churches, and send their children to public schools. More than half have payroll taxes deducted from their paychecks and a smaller but still significant number pays federal income taxes.”vii In a study published by the Migration Policy Institute, Gordon Hanson takes into account the cost incurred to the United States by undocumented immigrants through public services such as emergency health care and other emergency services, education, and roads, and the surplus in GDP associated with undocumented immigrants through paying income, payroll, property, and sales taxes depending on factors such as income earned and whether or not they receive public benefits. Looking at the net short-run cost and surplus of undocumented immigrants on US GDP, Hanson finds that the net short-run impact on national income is -0.07 percent of GDP-“close enough to zero to be essentially a wash.”viii

Similar results are found in Arizona, where undocumented immigrants make up at least 9 percent of the state labor force, 8.1 percent of the labor force in Phoenix alone. The positive impact of the undocumented labor force on Phoenix’s economy is contrary to negative political rhetoric, as Phoenix actually experienced a 126 percent economic growth from 1990 to 2005-07, the same period that yielded historically high levels of undocumented immigration; demonstrating a large correlation between immigrant percentage of the labor force and economic growth.ix Although it is especially difficult to assess the net fiscal impact of undocumented immigrants on a specific state, a study by the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy in 2008 estimated the overall impacts of immigrants in general, including undocumented immigrants, and found them to be positive. According to the study, in 2004, the fiscal cost of immigrants in Arizona totaled $1.4 billion, compared to their fiscal contribution of $2.4 billion in state tax revenue through business, sales, and personal taxes alone.x In addition, the study found that just non-citizens alone contribute $29 billion in output, approximately $4.4 billion in spending power. The perception that undocumented immigration is a problem due to the fact that undocumented immigrants cost Arizona money fails to take into account that undocumented immigrants also make a significant contribution to Arizona’s economy.

With regard to the impact of undocumented immigration on crime in Arizona, studies have found that higher populations of undocumented immigrants in places like Arizona do not necessarily mean higher crime rates. In fact, national studies have shown that large influxes of undocumented immigrants are actually correlated with substantial decreases in crime. “Since the early 1990’s, over the same time period as legal and especially illegal immigration was reaching and surpassing historic highs, crime rates have declined, both nationally and most notably in cities and regions of high immigrant concentration.”xi Despite this evidence, many proponents of SB 1070 elude to rising crime rates in Arizona and attribute them to undocumented immigrants. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said herself in the signing of SB 1070: “‘we cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.’”xii To her credit, incarceration rates in general have dramatically increased over the past few decades, quadrupling in number just from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million in 2006.xiii However, this can be attributed to various events in recent history, including “economic restructuring and rising inequality.”xiv In Arizona, rising incarceration rates are coinciding with decreasing crime rates. Just between 2005 and 2008, violent crimes in Arizona decreased by almost 1,500 reported incidents, and property crimes fell from around 287,000 to 279,000 reported incidents. These drops are in spite of the 600,000 increase in Arizona’s population and continuing presence of undocumented immigrants.xv Framed within a scenario of high crime rates among undocumented immigrants, the immigration problem is again reduced to false rhetoric.

Increasing coverage of high profile drug cartel violence has created another factor in the immigration “problem,” portraying a scenario where undocumented immigrants are connected to violent drug cartel crime in Arizona. For example, the murder of Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz by an alleged undocumented immigrant in March of 2010, gained a lot of media attention, causing political pressure to enforce immigration laws as a way to reduce violent crime. However, according to the border patrol, “Krentz is the only American murdered by a suspected illegal immigrant in at least a decade within the agency’s Tucson sector,”xvi meaning that this high profile case is actually an anomaly. Regarding claims that the drug war is spilling over the U.S.-Mexico border into Arizona, Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik stated: “’This is a media-created event…I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse. Well, the fact of the matter is that the border has never been more secure.’”xvii As Dupnik illustrates, there is a discrepancy between the media’s portrayal of drug violence in Arizona and the actual facts as experienced and published by law enforcement. Violent crimes in Arizona have actually been decreasing despite rising coverage of violent crimes, making it seem like Arizona itself is turning into the center of the war on drugs when there is actually little spillover of violent crime from the border. In fact, “crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line.”xviii

Unfortunately, the idea that violent drug cartel crime is spilling into Arizona through undocumented immigration continues to shape the immigration debate. This is illustrated in a recent study by a media watchdog organization demonstrating the power of rhetoric in a recent study, showing that “during 2007 the allegation that undocumented immigrants drain social services and/or don’t pay taxes was discussed on seventy-one episodes of Lou Dobbs tonight, thirteen episodes of Glenn Beck, and eight episodes of The O’Reilly Factor.” However, the data does not support these correlations, the immigration “problem” in Arizona may be a problem for undocumented immigrants themselves, as they are the subject of harsh enforcement policies, but for the state of Arizona undocumented immigration is only a scapegoat for other problems Arizona residents may face. In order to gain support of SB 1070, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stated in an interview: “We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings and the fact that people can’t feel safe in their community.”xix She later refuted to that statement, admitting that she was misinformed, claiming: “I misspoke.”xx Even the governor of Arizona contributes to the false media hype creating a heightened sense of danger surrounding cartel violence and then blaming it on undocumented immigrants. In this case, the problems associated with undocumented immigration are manufactured out of false hyperbole.

Transitioning back to SB 1070, we can reevaluate the immigration “problem,” and Arizona’s proposed solution. The problems associated with undocumented immigration, with regard to economic costs and criminal behavior, are, on the one hand not a direct result of undocumented immigrants, and, on the other hand, are greatly exaggerated through media hype. Because undocumented immigrants are actually a positive influence on the economy and have a negative correlation with crime, tough immigration enforcement that drives them out of the community is in reality an unproductive policy for Arizona to pursue. The political pressure prompting the passage and support of SB 1070 due to the perceived high negative impact of undocumented immigrants on Arizona is misguided through media hype and popular misunderstandings about undocumented immigration.

287(g): A Similar Enforcement Strategy
The nature of section 287(g), added onto the Immigration and Nationality Act by congress in 1996, is very similar to that of SB 1070, making it a useful analysis of the potential economic and social costs and benefits of the strategy through which SB 1070 pursues its objective. Like SB 1070, 287(g) expands the ability to enforce federal immigration laws to the state. Through agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 287(g) allows certain state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws through jail and/or task enforcement.xxi Jail Enforcement authorizes trained officers to verify the immigration status of jailed inmates, while the Task Force authorizes trained officers to verify the immigration status of people they encounter in their daily policing activities.xxii As of August 2008, ICE has made a total of 62 agreements with local enforcement agencies, including Maricopa County’s Sheriff’s Office.xxiii There is considerable controversy surrounding Maricopa Sheriff’s Office and its implementation of the 287(g) program. In fact, its task enforcement privileges have been since revoked. However, using the example of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office we find that in just one county in Arizona, allowing police officers to enforce federal immigration law has very high economic and social costs.

A policy report by the Goldwater institute illustrates a few of the negative impacts of the 287(g) program on Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, finding that the effectiveness of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office “has been compromised for the past several years by misplaced priorities,” ultimately aiding in a 2007 financial crisis for the county, hindering the serving of outstanding warrants, and resulting in various lawsuits due to its detention facilities.xxiv In its attempt to address the immigration “problem,” Maricopa County Sheriff’s office actually created more numerous, serious problems.

Despite its original intention to focus on dangerous criminal aliens, 287(g) in MCSO actually lead to the increased targeting of minor offenders such as traffic violators and day laborers,xxv ultimately using its agreement with ICE in order to further divert its resources towards high profile immigration sweeps, and, consequentially, away from other important enforcement areas and public services. For example, in order to fill his Human Smuggling Unit, Sheriff Joe Arpaio staffed the unit through “’temporary’ reassignments of deputies from patrol units, many of which were not replaced,” leaving large gaps in law enforcement. These gaps were further increased by the sheriff’s attempt to compensate for a large deficit, caused by officer overtime, through keeping 66 deputy and other patrol positions unfilled.xxvi Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office first diverted resources away from standard law enforcement in order to enforce federal immigration laws, and then was forced to further cut back on standard law enforcement in order to account for the debt incurred through the addition of immigration enforcement. The results of this diversion of resources are starkly illustrated in Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s outstanding warrants: As of September 2008, MCSO had 42,297 outstanding felony warrants out of 77,949 outstanding warrants total.xxvii Even if popular opinion is that police enforcement of immigration increases community safety, the fact is that the contrary is true: In participating in 287(g), Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office not only took law enforcement officials from communities, but also experienced “growing rates of violent crimes, plummeting arrest rates, and increased response time to citizens’ calls for help.”xxviii

Estimated Economic and Social Benefits of SB 1070

As illustrated in previous sections, proponents of SB 1070 propose that reducing the undocumented immigrant population in Arizona will not only save Arizona money but also reduce crime. However, popular anti-immigrant sentiments are often hyperbolized, failing to account for the fact that various studies have complicated the issue of immigration, and shown that in many cases, immigrants have a net positive impact on communities—both economically and socially. Therefore, we are left wondering what the economic and social benefits of SB 1070 would be. Even if tough police enforcement of federal immigration laws were able to significantly reduce the undocumented population in Arizona, that population is actually a positive influence on Arizona’s economy and community safety.

If Arizona communities are solely concerned with deterring the undocumented population in Arizona, than a possible benefit of SB 1070 might be to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the state. However, if the same communities are also concerned with their local economies and safety, then the scope of this potential benefit must be rethought, as the negative impact of enforcing 287(g) is significantly higher than that of the undocumented population itself.

Estimated Economic and Social Costs of SB 1070

Assuming that SB 1070 would be effective in deterring undocumented immigration, we can analyze the potential impact on the Arizona economy. A study on the effect of immigrants in Arizona estimates that a significant decrease in the population of immigrants would have a large negative impact on the Arizonan economy. Taking into account that the immigrant community is concentrated in certain industries such as agriculture, the study finds that just reducing the agricultural workforce by 15 percent results in a $600 million loss in output and $25 million loss in tax revenue. Similar results are found for construction, manufacturing, and service industries.xxix Although the study doesn’t focus on undocumented immigrants, undocumented immigrants make up a significant portion of the immigrant population, significantly contributing to the positive results. Both documented and undocumented immigrants are vital to the Arizonan economy, demonstrating that even a small decrease in their population will have a negative large impact on the health of the state’s economy, and shedding light on the misguided objective of SB 1070, as well as false perceptions of its alleged benefits.

As illustrated in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s enforcement of federal immigration laws through the 287(g) program, expanding immigration enforcement to local police through SB 1070 will incur high social and economic costs. In addition to diverting resources away from everyday law enforcement activities, placing the responsibility of federal immigration laws on police will actually increase crime rates, decrease crime enforcement, and have a high cost to taxpayers and police budgets. In the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office alone, the deficit was 1.3 million in just the first three months after engaging in immigration enforcement through the 287(g) In addition, SB 1070 harms the social dynamics within communities with high undocumented populations, disrupting trust between law enforcement and community members and ultimately making it difficult for police to gain necessary community cooperation. A good example is demonstrated in an account included in a recent study on the role of local police:

“One Midwestern police chief recounted an incident where an unauthorized immigrant was a witness to a crime and agreed to testify in a criminal case. The witness’s name appeared on a witness list in preparation for the trial. As the court began to vet the background of this witness, defense attorneys revealed that he was an undocumented alien. A few days after the witness testified in the court case, ICE arrested him and initiated deportation proceedings. Word of this incident rapidly spread throughout the immigrant community and, as a result, the police have had difficulty securing the cooperation of other immigrant witnesses. Even residents who were victimized and exploited feared approaching the police because trust between the immigrant community and the police had been destroyed.”xxxi

It is important to note that the mistrust and lack of cooperation between the immigrant communities and the police has a wider effect throughout other communities, as it makes the policing of violent criminals more difficult. In addition, there are numerous instances of abuse of 287(g) that also disrupt the functioning of community safety. Although many proponents of SB 1070 claim that police officers will not use discrimination and racial profiling as a tool in enforcing immigration, the fact is that discrimination has regularly occurred with agencies that are a part of 287(g), resulting in breaks in community trust and several costly lawsuits for those police departments.xxxii

In addition to projected costs of SB 1070, there are various economic consequences that are already being felt in Arizona even with the limited scope of SB 1070 in effect. Arizona has experience decreased tourism revenue, costly lawsuits, and many local businesses have seen a significant reduction in customers. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how much the tourism industry is affected through SB 1070, within the first month after passing the bill at least 40 groups had cancelled meetings or conventions scheduled in Arizona.xxxiii Even before the passage of SB 1070, Arizona’s direct travel expenditures had already decreased by more than ten percent in 2009; therefore, it’s clear that any further hits to its tourism industry, including cancellations of events, will be hard felt.xxxiv Lawsuits against Arizona are projected to be even more costly. As of September 3, 2010, the various lawsuits filed against Arizona as a result of SB 1070 (originally 7 and currently 6) are adding up to more than $440,000, and may well exceed $1 million—paid through governor Jan Brewer’s legal defense fund.xxxv Directly in communities, many small businesses are paying directly for the consequences of SB 1070. The AZCentral newspaper reports that Phoenix small businesses catering to the Hispanic community “saw an immediate drop in business since the passage of SB 1070,” citing that some shops have lost as much as 60%, and one that was forced to close within one week of the bill’s passage.xxxvi If SB 1070 succeeds in decreasing the undocumented population, many more small businesses in Arizona can expect similar fates.

The economic and social costs to Arizona and its communities as a result of SB 1070 are numerous and diverse. From decrease in business in small communities to costs to the state directly through legal fees and loss in tax revenue, it is clear that although it’s difficult to accurately estimate the exact cost of SB 1070, it is obvious it will be significant. Taking into account the very small cost, or lack thereof of undocumented immigrants on Arizona and its communities, the costs of implementing SB 1070 in Arizona far outweigh any proposed benefits.
The immigration “problem,” as it is often presented in political debates, turns out to be very different in actuality than rhetoric implies. Economically and socially, undocumented immigrants can be found to have a positive impact on Arizona and its communities, casting doubt on the necessity of a bill, like SB 1070, aimed at deterring undocumented immigration. The projections of the negative effects of decreasing the undocumented population eliminate SB 1070 as a desirable immigration policy. The implementation and enforcement of SB 1070 and similar policies result in high economic and social costs, not to mention the costs to the livelihoods of immigrants forced out of their communities through harsh immigration policies. SB 1070 is an example of a dangerous, costly, and inefficient immigration policy, and is ultimately undesirable to Arizona communities, Arizona as a whole, and the United States.

Policy Recommendations
The first recommendation I have would be to repeal SB 1070 entirely, as well as 287(g) programs, as they are economically and socially harmful immigration policies. Alternative policies would focus on inclusion rather than direct removal through deportation, avoiding negative effects of harsh immigration policies such as breaks in cohesion between police and immigrant communities, and economic losses due to decreases in presence and involvement of the immigrant population. A successful immigration policy would focus on a way to legally include undocumented immigrants who are currently facing serious obstacles to their participation in their communities and the state.



ii Population estimates:

iii Joe Arpaio;

iv SB1070 as amended by HB2162:

v SB 1070

vi Population estimates:

vii Hanson, 8:

viii Hanson 13

ix Immigrants And The Economy: 16

x Immigrants in Arizona: Fiscal and Economic Impacts : 61

xi The Role of Local Police; 124


xiii Role of Local Police: 122

xiv Ibid







xxi 287(g): 5

xxii Role of Local Police: 19

xxiii Role of Local Police: 19

xxiv Mission Unacomplished; 1


xxvi Mission unaccomplished: 9

xxvii MA; 12

xxviii Mission unaccomplished: 9

xxix Immigrants in Arizona: Fiscal and Economic Impacs: 62

xxx Mission unaccomplished : 9

xxxi Role of Local police: 23

xxxii Role of Local police: 30





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