Business Update with Mark Lacter |

Not so fast on Arizona immigration law

Legal challenges to Arizona's new immigration law are a certainty. As has been pointed out by numerous legal scholars, states are not authorized to enforce immigration laws in this country, and it seems inevitable that the courts - and Congress - will have something to say about this. Here in California, the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 was passed by voters but struck down by a federal judge. Karl Manheim of Loyola Law School tells Law Blog: "States have no power to pass immigration laws because it's an attribute of foreign affairs. Just as states can't have their own foreign policies or enter into treaties, they can't have their own immigration laws either."

Not that a court challenge is going to be pretty. From the NYT:

"Hispanics, not long ago courted by the Republican Party as a swing voting bloc, in particular railed against the law as a recipe for racial and ethnic profiling. “Governor Brewer caved to the radical fringe,” said a statement by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, predicting that the law would create “a spiral of pervasive fear, community distrust, increased crime and costly litigation, with nationwide repercussions.” The Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles called the authorities’ ability to demand documents Nazism. While police demands of documents are common on subways, highways and in public places in some countries, including France, Arizona is the first state to demand that immigrants meet federal requirements to carry identity documents legitimizing their presence on American soil."

If you question the legal arguments, consider the economic benefits of a flexible immigration program. A recent UCLA study says that legalization of undocumented immigrants would add about $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. A study by the Fiscal Policy Institute shows that immigration and economic growth go hand in hand in the 25 largest metropolitan areas. Still other studies suggest that losing undocumented laborers would put extreme strains on certain industries, even in a slow-growth economy. In Southern California, an influx of immigrants in the 1990s helped revive the region's struggling economy.

I realize that the emotional arguments surrounding the immigration issue won't be tempered by academics. Yet, misguided economics are the centerpiece of the anti-immigrant tirades - the notion that "those people" are taking our jobs. This is simply not the case.