The Wall Street Journal calls AZ â€œa laboratory for new ways to crack down on illegal immigrants.â€ Spurred in large part by â€œtransplantsâ€ from other parts of the country, The Journal notes that AZ enacted 13 laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration, many of which triggered lawsuits or have yet to be enforced. These include making English the state’s official language and denying punitive damage awards to illegal aliens in civil court.
However, a new state punishing employers who hire illegals has withstood legal challenge, which bodes well for at least some of the others. Hereâ€™s a round-up of the stateâ€™s initiatives to relieve the burden that the nationâ€™s failed immigration policy created:
â€ By executive order, Gov. Janet Napolitano is allowing real estate regulators and police to share information on â€œdrop housesâ€ where human smugglers stash illegal aliens until their fee is paid or arrangements can be made to deliver them to their final destinations in the state. She wants to target property managers who knowingly rent homes to smugglers. The Phoenix metropolitan area is believed to have about 1,000 drop houses, according to The Associated Press.
â€ Last year, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio authorized his deputies to arrest illegal immigrants in the course of duty – resulting in the arrests of hundreds. After the murder of a Phoenix police officer by an illegal alien, Scottsdale police have been asking for proof of citizenship from every suspect arrested since October 15th and turning illegals over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Now, Phoenix police have begun asking anyone who is arrested on drunken driving, murder and other criminal offenses whether (s)he is in the U.S. legally, and will report some of them to ICE. Mayor Phil Gordon said that the new policy exempts people stopped for civil traffic violations like speeding, and that police will not randomly stop people to ask their immigration status. â€œWe are doing what every city in this country should be doing but doesnâ€™t,â€ Gordon tells The New York Times.
â€ Deputies perform background checks on visitors to the jails under the jurisdiction of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and anyone who cannot prove citizenship has been subject to arrest since July 2007 (third item). Sheriff Arpaio has also set up a hot line to report illegal immigrants, which is advertised on the side of the sheriff’s vehicles with a big red “Do Not Enter” sign and the word “Illegally” scrawled over it, reports The Wall Street Journal.
â€ In 2006, voters passed a referendum, Proposition 300 that prohibits college students from receiving state financial assistance unless they can prove they are legal residents, and also bars colleges from offering in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Illegals are free to attend college â€“ and school administrators are not required to report them to the authorities â€“ but have to pay their own way, just as they would in Mexico where there are no programs that offer financial aid to those wanting to pursue a college education.
â€œArizona has been overwhelmed with illegal immigration and all the negative things that follow â€” crime, increased public service costs, especially education, and depression of our wages â€” and the federal government seems barely capable of doing much,â€ State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) tells The New York Times. He adds, â€œDenying the in-state tuition, besides being fair to residents, also deters illegal immigrants from coming here.â€
So whatâ€™s the upshot of all this enforcement activity? Coupled with the collapse of the housing market – builders are among the top employers of illegals in the state â€“ these initiatives are â€œsteering Hispanic immigrants out of the state,â€ reports The New York Times:
State Representative Russell K. Pearce, a Republican from Mesa and leading advocate of the crackdown on illegal immigration, takes reports of unauthorized workers leaving as a sign of success. An estimated one in 10 workers in Arizona are Hispanic immigrants, both legal and illegal, twice the national average.
â€œThe desired effect was, we donâ€™t have the red carpet out for illegal aliens,â€ Mr. Pearce said, adding that while â€œmost of these are good peopleâ€ they are a â€œtremendous burdenâ€ on public services. â€¦
Several school districts in heavily Latino areas have reported sudden drops in enrollment. â€¦
The Cartwright Elementary School District in west Phoenix, for instance, reported a loss of 525 students this school year (dropping the enrollment to 19,845), while in previous years enrollment had grown or remained stable among its 23 schools. â€¦
Juan Leon, a construction subcontractor and the husband of Elizabeth Leon, the day care worker, said illegal immigrants had made it harder for legal residents like him to find work. Companies that employ them can bid much lower on projects than he can because they pay workers much less, Mr. Leon said.
With fewer illegal immigrants relying on public services the tax burden on many Arizonans will eventually ease â€“ for one thing, new schools wonâ€™t have to be built and new teachers wonâ€™t have to be hired â€“ pumping more discretionary dollars into local businesses to help get the economy back on its feet faster.
Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.