Constitutionality Aside, Look at the Economic Damage

Last week, the Obama administration confirmed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will file a lawsuit to challenge Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070 before it becomes law in late July. But regardless of its constitutionality, SB 1070 will have bad consequences for Arizona. The majority of this law is about punishing businesses during a slow economy and will unintentionally increase crime.

Read the language. Sections 7 and 8 set out punishments for employers who knowingly or intentionally hire undocumented workers. For a first offense in both cases, the employer has to fire all undocumented workers and sign an affidavit promising not to repeat the infraction. All of his business licenses are then temporarily suspended.

The business is then put on a three-year probation (five years for those that intentionally hire undocumented workers) and must file quarterly records to prove that it is complying with state employment law. Being presumed guilty and forced to repeatedly prove their innocence, businesses that make one error are kept under a regulatory microscope for years.

If that sounds like an egregious attack on entrepreneurship, consider the prospect of outright annihilation: If a business commits a second such offense and hires an undocumented worker, all of its business licenses are permanently revoked, thus shutting down that business and destroying someone’s livelihood. SB 1070 sets a dangerous precedent for further encroachments on property rights.

That’s not all. SB 1070 will also increase the crime rate. It effectively deputizes all Arizona state employees as immigration enforcement officers. Police officers and other state employees in Arizona charged with enforcing this are not trained in immigration law. Consequently, they will make numerous errors.

Stringent enforcement of immigration laws by local and state officials will increase crime. An effective police force that can work with immigrants can be a life or death issue for cops on the beat. William J. Bratton, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, defended that city’s sanctuary status by stating: “[O]ur effectiveness is diminished because immigrants living and working in our communities are afraid to have any conduct with the police …[M]y officers can’t prevent or solve crimes if victims or witnesses are unwilling to talk to us because of the fear of being deported.”

The law will drain police time and resources away from solving and preventing real criminal activity, like murder and theft. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Police Foundation, Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chief’s Association, and others all oppose or are extremely critical of having local police enforcement immigration laws for the same reason. Officers Martin Escobar of Tucson and David Salgado of Phoenix are suing Arizona over SB 1070 in federal court for that reason.

As if that were not bad enough, section 2 grants any legal resident of Arizona the ability to sue any official or agency that implements a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of immigration laws, if said resident considers that agency’s or official’s efforts to be deficient. A wave of frivolous lawsuits can severely strain a state’s finances, especially of a state like Arizona that has been hard hit by the housing bust and financial crisis.