Arizona decision positive signal to states
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration law, states should back off from their “enforcement-only” approach.
Instead, they should model realistic immigration reform that moves our nation forward, together.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberals in throwing out most of the provisions of Arizona’s extremely harsh immigration law, SB 1070. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, “The state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”
State politicians in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia have tried to outdo the federal government with their own crackdowns on immigration. The result has left both families and state economies in tatters. These states have pried parents away from their children, decimated communities and left farmers’ crops to rot in the fields.
One year after the law passed, Arizona’s tourist industry’s economic output dropped by $250 million, according to the Center for American Progress. Georgia’s copycat law cost the state approximately between $300 million and $1 billion in lost agricultural output. The University of Alabama predicted that its state’s enforcement-only law would result in somewhere near $11 billion in lost revenue annually.
Obviously, these laws are bad for business.
Mississippi legislators rightly rejected Arizona copycat legislation because of these potential negative economic impacts. The Supreme Court’s decision could be an advantageous moment for states to move from knee-jerk draconian policies to bipartisan solutions that are more humane and sensible.
Rising star Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told “Face the Nation” this summer that Arizona’s immigration law is “not a national model.” Rubio is right.
California has a better one.
In that state, there is bipartisan support for the California Opportunity and Prosperity Act, which could add $300 million in revenue to the state by ensuring that immigrants who have lived in California for four years pay state taxes. In return, these immigrants would be allowed to live and work openly in California without fear of deportation as long as they have no felony convictions, are not suspected terrorists, pay a fee to administer the program and can speak English or are learning it.
The recent Supreme Court ruling underscores California’s ability to negotiate with the federal government on these matters. Other states should do the same.
The issue of immigration is about what’s best for our communities. It isn’t about punishing those who seek a better life. It’s about ensuring that our states in this current economic storm are prioritizing what’s important: the families who live there and the businesses that thrive there.
Louis Brandeis, the highly respected Supreme Court justice, once remarked that “a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”
The Supreme Court ruling is a signal to state elected and civic leaders to step up and lead the way.
Eric K. Ward , a veteran civil rights advocate, is a founder of the Black Immigration Network. He can be reached at pmproj [at] progressive [dot] org.
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