Hispanics Abandon Arizona, Fleeing Economy, Immigration Law

By Haq, Husna | The Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2010 | Go to article overview

Hispanics Abandon Arizona, Fleeing Economy, Immigration Law


Haq, Husna, The Christian Science Monitor


The bad economy was already leading thousands of Hispanics to leave Arizona. Now, anecdotal evidence suggests that more are leaving before the Arizona immigration law takes effect.

Arizona's hard-hitting immigration law is driving Hispanics out of the state weeks before the controversial law goes into effect.

Although concrete figures are not available, anecdotal evidence suggests Hispanics, both legal residents and illegal immigrants, are starting to flee.

Schools in Hispanic neighborhoods are reporting abnormal enrollment drops, and businesses that serve Hispanics also report that business is down, according to a USA Today report published Wednesday.

The report suggests that the immigration law is compounding demographic trends that have already significantly curtailed illegal immigration during the past two years. The bad economy has been the primary deterrent to many Hispanic immigrants seeking to enter Arizona, says Jeffrey Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

"If you have a bad economy and a hostile environment, then that's likely to cause people to think twice about coming, and possibly even to leave," Mr. Passel says.

Arizona's new immigration law requires that police conducting routine traffic stops or other checks ask people about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they're in the country illegally.

The law also makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally or to disrupt traffic when hiring day laborers, regardless of a worker's immigration status. It would also become a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit work.

Critics contend the law could lead to racial profiling of Hispanics. It could also force an exodus of scared immigrants - legal and illegal. Nearly 100,000 illegal immigrants left Arizona after it passed a 2007 law that penalized businesses that hired them, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The importance of the economy

Yet the economy is a far more powerful factor in immigration, says David Gutierrez, a professor of immigration history, at the University of California San Diego.

Arizona's immigrant population, which is more than 90 percent Mexican, has already been leveling off for two years now, due to the recession.

"The economy is always the primary factor in determining migration flows," says Professor Gutierrez. …

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