Arizona’s SB1070 Spurs Political, Economic Fallout
By: Alessandra Soler Meetze
Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona
Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona
SB1070 was a wake-up call like no other. It was a wake-up call for a community that has been re-energized and re-focused on the need to gain political power. It was a wake-up call for business leaders who vowed to never again let an extremist minority in the Arizona Legislature hijack their bottom line. And it was a wake-up call for voters who became fed up with the misplaced agendas of political leaders who have catapulted their careers vilifying immigrants.
Despite the fact that most of the egregious provisions of SB1070 were blocked from going into effect, the economic consequences following its passage were disastrous.
- The state lost at least $141 million, including $45 million in hotel and lodging cancellations, and $96 million in lost commercial revenue;
- Thousands of families abandoned their homes and left the state, increasing foreclosure rates;
- Revenues for small retailers that cater to Latinos fell by more than 50 percent; and
- School districts with large Latino populations saw a dramatic decrease in student enrollment.
The first signs of a dramatic political backlash came in March of this year, when members of Senator Russell Pearce’s own caucus actually stood up to his bullying. Republican and Democrat state senators joined together to kill five of the most nakedly anti-immigrant bills the Legislature has ever seen. These bills would have prevented undocumented children from receiving any kind of education, criminalized nearly every aspect of daily living for undocumented residents, gutted the 14th Amendment’s precious and hard-won right of citizenship, and frightened people away from medical centers by turning hospital workers into de facto immigration agents.
Recognizing the toll that SB 1070 took on our state, a majority of senators turned away from this kind of legislation and bravely cast votes against these bills, in spite of intimidation, insults, and threats of political reprisal. Similarly, SB 1222, which would have severely penalized undocumented residents for even visiting a public housing unit, stalled in the House of Representatives.
On the litigation front, three of the five SB1070 copycat bills that passed went down in lawsuits brought by the ACLU and its civil rights partners. The core provisions of the laws in Utah, Indiana and Georgia have all been blocked by the lawsuits brought by ACLU. The ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the Alabama law is pending, with a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled on August 24. The ACLU also plans to sue to block the South Carolina law, which is slated to go into effect Jan 1, 2012. So far, none of the laws challenged by the ACLU have withstood constitutional scrutiny by the federal courts.
As for SB1070 architect Russell Pearce, he became the first legislator to face a recall election in Arizona history. The group that gathered signatures to recall the Senator gathered 10,365 signatures from registered voters in his district who said the Senator had failed to "focus on issues and concerns that affect all Arizonans." Clearly, the political ramifications for SB1070 supporters could not be ignored.
The passage of SB1070 one-year ago was a critical moment in our nation’s history. It sanctioned discrimination against all perceived immigrants nearly 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed that very same practice against African-Americans and women. But the courts, voters and members of the business community have responded by sending a clear message to Senator Pearce, Governor Brewer and other powers-that-be who sanctioned SB1070: the state of Arizona has no business trying to enforce federal immigration laws.
Now, it’s time for us to convince the court of public opinion that in America we don’t believe in discarding the civil rights of others regardless of who they are; in America we insist that those freedoms which we hold dear extend not only to those with whom we identify, but to those who appear different. Because in America, everyone’s rights are protected.