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Arizonans highlight economic cost of tough immigration law

By  |  Posted Feb 10th, 2011 @ 4:01pm



SALT LAKE CITY — A spokesman for an Arizona business group opposed to enforcement-only immigration laws said Thursday that they are costing his state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Arizona is set to lose $490 million in tourism revenue this year, including $141 million in lost spending due to conferences canceled in protest of the measures, Todd Landfried said at a Hinckley Institute of Politics forum discussion at the University of Utah.

The only people who can fix the broken immigration system we have is the folks in Congress.

–Lydia Guzman

Landfried, a consultant and spokesman for Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, said the state would lose almost 3,000 tourism jobs, while a major Chinese manufacturing company has moved its operations to Texas.

"That's a lot of jobs," he said. "The impact to all this stuff really is devastating."

Boycotts and dropped contracts have damaged Arizona's economy since the passage of SB1070 last year, Landfried said. Since farmers in the Yuma area have lost up to 60 percent of this winter's lettuce crop without enough workers in the fields, he added, the price of a carton of lettuce has almost doubled to more than $21.

"That's going to hit every one of you," he said.

Meanwhile, Arizona is racking up legal bills to defend the constitutionality of the law, which has already had provisions thrown out by a judge.

Lydia Guzman, president of Somos America and Respect Respeto, said she supports efforts to establish guest worker programs in cooperation with the federal government.

Some people abhor the notion that somebody who doesn't look like them, who doesn't have their background, could have some political power.

–Todd Landfried

"The only people who can fix the broken immigration system we have is the folks in Congress," she said, adding that even federal efforts that focus only on enforcement would not work. "It's impossible. You can't deport them all."

Landfried said he is taking the message of AZEIR, which is made up of 350 Arizona businesses of all sizes, to other states to promote practical and sensible reform.

"That's really what's going to solve this problem. A lot of this knee-jerk stuff isn't going to do it," he said. "I want to make sure legislatures don't do something dumb."

The newest iteration of Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's much-discussed immigration enforcement bill, HB70, will get its first public airing in a committee meeting Friday after the Orem Republican modified it to give police discretion on checking the legal status of people arrested for minor offenses.

Landfried argued that tough enforcement measures boil down to a political calculation to limit the influence of growing ethnic groups.

"Some people abhor the notion that somebody who doesn't look like them, who doesn't have their background, could have some political power," he said.

Sharing of information between Arizona and Utah leaders has been plentiful the past couple of months. In September, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and a dozen other Utah lawmakers went to Arizona to observe things. Bell said at the time that gauging the bill's success was difficult because it depended on who you talked to.

The business community -- namely the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce -- painted an ugly picture of what the bill is doing to the Arizona economy.

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, said at the time, "To hear the chamber, the hotel association and others clearly stating the loss for them was a strong message. I think that will resonate with anybody in terms of the economy and how we want to see the state of Utah in the future."

Over the next two days elected officials, business leaders, members of chambers of commerce in Utah, and those in industries like hospitality, tourism, and restaurants will talk about the potential economic impacts of new immigration laws.

Story written by Paul Koepp with contributions from Anne Forester.

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