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November 21, 2017

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Immigration in brief: Alabama immigration law could cost state $2.3 billion annually; ‘Arizona Accord’ seeks softer approach on immigration

Alabama immigration law could prove costly: University of Alabama economist Samuel Addy conducted a cost-benefit analysis of Alabama’s tough immigration law passed last year and found the state stands to lose $2.3 billion annually.

In the report released in January, Addy weighs expected savings from the law (e.g. reduction in services for illegal immigrants) against predicted losses to the economy (e.g. reduction in demand from loss of undocumented workforce). He estimates that between 40,000 and 80,000 workers would flee the state because of the new laws, including a provision that makes it unlawful to enter into any business transaction with someone without a legal status, and the result would be the loss of 70,000-140,000 jobs and a minimum reduction in Alabama annual GDP of $2.3 billion.

Addy writes in the report:

“Some of the law’s costs and benefits are qualitative and others are quantifiable, but difficult to estimate. While the law’s costs are certain and some are large, it is not clear that the benefits will be realized. From an economist’s perspective, the question Alabama and its legislature have to ponder is this: Are the benefits of the new immigration law worth the costs?”

There is already talk within in the Alabama Legislature about amending the law, and Gov. Robert Bentley has called for the law to be simplified.

Arizona weighs new immigration laws while community leaders resist more restrictive measures: In January a group of Arizona business, civic and religious leaders signed on to the “Arizona Accord,” calling for a new strategy that takes into account the economic benefits of the immigrant population. The accord also seeks greater emphasis on federal, rather than state, solutions, policies that do not separate families and a culture of inclusion.

Yet, at the end of January Arizona state Sen. Steve Smith introduced two bills that signaled at least some lawmakers still see a need for tougher measures. One bill would require school districts to keep a record of students who are in the country without a legal status. The other would require hospitals to notify immigration authorities when they treat uninsured patients who have no proof of legal residence. Arizona businesses successfully lobbied against further anti-immigration measures in 2011, and there is significant doubt that the bills introduced in 2012 have a better chance.

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