By Daniel González
The Arizona Republic
ABOVE PHOTO: In this April 25, 2010, photo, Beatriz Manzano of Mesa, Ariz., cheers as she joins protesters attending a rally at the Arizona Capitol voice their displeasure over last Friday’s bill signing of SB1070 by the Arizona governor, in Phoenix. Arizona’s tough new immigration law swiftly reconfigured the national political landscape in an already high-octane election year. It creates peril for Democrats and Republicans on a divisive issue with implications for national security, states rights and race.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Adriana Miranda leaned against the door frame and started to sob.
Her husband hasn’t found steady work in a year. Then, on last Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the tough anti-illegal-immigration law that will allow police to arrest illegal immigrants like her. It was the last straw. After seven years in Arizona, the family was moving.
“Yesterday, we sold our trailer,” Miranda, 38, said between sobs. “We don’t know exactly where. Another state.”
Miranda is not alone. More than 100,000 undocumented immigrants have left Arizona in the past two years because of the bad economy and earlier enforcement crackdowns. Now, a new wave of Latinos is preparing to leave. And it isn’t just illegal immigrants: Legal residents and U.S. citizens also say they will leave Arizona because they view the state as unfriendly to Hispanics.
Arizona’s new immigration law is not so much about using local police to round up and deport as many of the estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in the state as possible, said state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, it’s about creating so much fear they will leave on their own.
The strategy is known as “attrition through enforcement,” and it is a factor behind every one of the anti-illegal-immigration laws passed so far, said Kavanagh, a main supporter of the bill and a criminal-justice professor at Scottsdale Community College.
“That means that rather than conducting large-scale active roundups of illegal immigrants, our intention is to make Arizona a very uncomfortable place for them to be so they leave or never come here in the first place,” he said. “So, rather than massive deportations, we are basically going to encourage them to leave on their own.”
When that happens, he said, crime and taxes will go down.
But Kavanagh said he is worried about legal immigrants and U.S. citizens also leaving.
“I’m concerned about legal residents who are unnecessarily leaving the state because they have bought into a lot of the misinformation about this bill,” Kavanagh said.
Phoenix resident Javier Collazo, 18, a U.S. citizen who was born in California, said he is worried police may question him about his immigration status because of his appearance. He is also worried that he could be arrested under a provision of the law that makes it a crime to transport undocumented immigrants. His in-laws are undocumented, and so are several of his friends.
Kavanagh said legal residents and U.S. citizens have nothing to worry about. The law strictly prohibits racial profiling. And the transporting provision is aimed at human smugglers and other criminals, not people giving rides to undocumented relatives, he said.
“They should know that it prohibits racial profiling,” Kavanagh said. “They should know that if they are transporting someone, even if they know the person is illegal, as long as they are not doing a separate illegal act, they are not going to get into trouble. They also, should know that once by attrition or by enforcement we significantly reduce the number of illegals in this state, taxes are going to go down and crime is going to go down. So, it will be a better place to live for everybody.”
How many Latinos may leave Arizona is unknown. But the state’s economy, which has hit Latinos disproportionately hard, combined with the new law, has made living in Arizona intolerable, many Hispanics said last week.
The new law makes it a state crime to be in the country without legal papers and lets police question people about their immigration status if officers have reasonable suspicion they are in the country illegally. An anti-smuggling provision makes it a crime to knowingly transport illegal immigrants.
Some immigrants said they are waiting to see if the law survives legal challenges before making a final decision. Others, like Miranda, are already packing their bags. Many said they will move to another state. Few said they will return to Mexico.Not just illegal immigrants are leaving, and the sudden loss of large numbers of people could hurt the state’s already dismal economy.
José Mendez, an economics professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said the state’s economic recovery could be hampered by the large-scale loss of workers. While wages may rise, the price of services “will definitely be higher,” he said. Businesses, especially small ones that rely on those workers, will have a hard time expanding, Mendez added.
There may also be a loss of sales-tax revenue and even property-tax revenue, he said.
“They pay taxes every time they buy food at the 7-Eleven or when they buy gasoline,” he said.
Mendez also said that, in the short term, undocumented immigrants tend to be a drain on public services because they have low-paying jobs and therefore pay little income taxes. But, in the long run, their U.S.-born children tend to offset those costs through higher-paying jobs and higher taxes.
“So on net, when you take those two, empirical studies have shown, they pay more in taxes than the value of services they receive,” Mendez said.
State Sen. Richard Miranda, D-Tolleson, said the large-scale loss of people could hurt already fragile communities.
“It could destabilize neighborhoods,” he said.
Miranda said he spent 2 1/2 hours last Saturday walking through largely Latino neighborhoods in Maryvale and West Phoenix.
He said he met Latinos, Sikhs, Hindus, Filipinos and other people of color, the majority of them U.S. citizens.
“They are all really concerned about the new law,” he said. “The stress and intimidation makes people fearful.”
Phoenix resident Adamaris, a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico, said she thinks many illegal immigrants will leave Arizona.
“The economy is already bad here, and now with this new law …,” she said. “No, we don’t want to stay here.”
Adamaris, who asked that her last name not be used because she is afraid of being deported, said she plans to wait two months to see if the law survives legal challenges before deciding whether to leave.
Glendale resident John Zavala, 32, was born in Mexico City but has lived in the United States most of his life. He is a legal resident of the United States and moved from Chicago to Phoenix in 2003 because he liked the weather.
But Zavala said he thinks the political climate in the state has turned inhospitable toward Latinos. If the hostility continues, Zavala said, he will leave Arizona.
“I always carry my green card,” said Zavala, a computer-network analyst. “Until this point, I’ve never had to use it. But from now on, I guess I will.”