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Opinion

Opinion

Anti-immigration fervor may be waning

June 27, 2012

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The Supreme Court’s immigration decision is a step back from the brink, leaving much less room than many expected for state immigration enforcement.

Although the justices blocked most provisions of Arizona’s controversial 2010 policing law, they upheld the one of most concern to immigrant rights advocates: the section that requires local police to inquire about the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons and whom they suspect are in the country illegally. Even this part of the opinion is more tenuous than many expected, leaving open the possibility of future reconsideration by the court. But pessimists are still anticipating the worst — that the ruling will open the way to a host of other states itching to follow in Arizona’s footsteps and pass similar punitive policing laws.

Maybe, things could play out that way. The last six years have seen a revolution in immigration lawmaking, with states across the country stepping into the vacuum created by Congress’ failure to act and passing tough immigration control measures of their own.

But the fears could be exaggerated. What’s coming may not be as drastic as many expect. Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, there were signs that voters’ anti-immigration fervor may be ebbing.

The first clue came in this year’s state legislative sessions. Almost exactly a year ago, an earlier Supreme Court ruling, Whiting v. U.S. Chamber of Commerce, established that states may act to prevent and punish the hiring of unauthorized immigrants, requiring employers to enroll in E-Verify, the online federal program that checks employees’ immigration status.

Last year, as now, conventional wisdom held that every state in the nation, or most, would walk through the door the court had opened, passing employer sanctions of their own. But that didn’t happen. In the five years before the Whiting decision, when it wasn’t clear if such mandates were legal, one-third of the states passed measures requiring some employers to use E-Verify — usually state agencies or state contractors. This year, despite the justices’ express permission, not a single state enacted a law imposing E-Verify on any new employers.

The states’ appetite for tough immigration policing laws also appears to be waning. After Arizona charted the way in 2010, five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — passed similar, copycat measures in 2011. But this year, no state did. Only one or two even considered it seriously. Some lawmakers were surely waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if federal law leaves room for states to act without fear of costly legal challenges. Other legislatures were preoccupied with budget issues or pressed for time in short election-year sessions. But the debate in many states revealed that a broad array of constituencies — from employers to law enforcement officials to faith groups — were concerned about the costs of Arizona-like policing laws.

Lawmakers and others across the nation have watched those costs mount in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia. Immigrant workers, legal and illegal, have fled in droves. A study by the University of Alabama estimates that as many as 80,000 unauthorized immigrants have left that state, eliminating an additional 60,000 jobs up and downstream in the local economy and costing the treasury $260 million in tax revenue. More than half the farmers and half the restaurant owners in Georgia reported experiencing labor shortages this year. Growers across the Southeast are planting fewer acres and moving away from labor-intensive crops.

One study, by the Public Policy Institute of California, suggests that Arizona has lost 17 percent of its unauthorized workforce since passing its policing law in 2010. Another estimate suggests that closer to one-third of these workers have left since the state started cracking down six years ago.

But perhaps the most dramatic evidence that the anti-immigrant fever has broken appeared in recent weeks in the wake of President Obama’s surprise announcement that immigration authorities will not deport up to 1 million young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. To say the reaction has been muted hardly captures what happened. A more accurate description would be a great collective national shrug.

Mitt Romney and other leading Republicans criticized Obama for ruling by partisan fiat, but virtually none challenged the substance of the announcement. A poll by Bloomberg News showed nearly two-thirds of the public approving. Even hard-core Republicans at Romney rallies told reporters they thought the policy made sense. “You can’t send people back,” said one man at a campaign stop in Troy, Ohio. “I don’t hate immigrants,” said a woman. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with” the Obama decision.

What does this mean for the future? What will happen in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling? Immigrant rights advocates are preparing for the worst, but perhaps needlessly. This could be the beginning of the end of the battle. The tide of public opinion could be turning on immigration.

— Tamar Jacoby, a fellow at the New America Foundation, is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of small-business owners working for better immigration law.

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

{One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack) by Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter, performed by The Original Caste (1970) This song was performed by Jinx Dawson and Coven in the movie "Billy Jack" (1971)}

I think this song says it all.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after....
One tin soldier rides away.

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Mike Ford 1 year, 9 months ago

you know sarkozy went the path of choice for people like BOA, Falsie, Jayhawk, and others in his run to the right to fend off Le Pen....guess what.... hate lost in France as it's starting to do here.....

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 9 months ago

"Anti-immigration fervor may be waning"...because they are all fed?

***Here’s a fairly well-known fact: One in seven Americans (and Trespassers) is on food stamps.

Here is a lesser-known fact: Food stamps account for 25-40% of the monthly revenue at certain Wal-Mart locations, according to New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle.

Indeed, Wal-Mart collected nearly half of the total $1.2 billion in food stamp spending in Oklahoma between 2009-11, according to the Tulsa World.

Food stamps — or if you prefer its current nomenclature, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — has become big business.

Curse the zombies who are on the program all you want… but as you’ll learn today, the zombie class includes the executives of grocery chains, soft-drink makers and the ever-present zombie banks.

The number of Americans on food stamps totaled 46.4 million as of March — the most-recent figure available. The number is down slightly from the record set in January:

While the number of Americans on food stamps grew 70% from 2007-11, the cost of the program grew 135%.

Spending in 2011 totaled $78 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The agency says spending grew faster than the number of recipients for two reasons: First, benefit amounts were increased 15% under the 2009 “stimulus” bill.

Second, as you know all too well… food prices have gone up.

The Agriculture Department is spending up to $3 million to encourage even more people to sign up for SNAP.

The agency figures one out of four people eligible for food stamps isn’t taking advantage. So for the last four months, the USDA’s been running radio commercials “targeted at the elderly, working poor, the unemployed and Hispanics,” reports CNNMoney:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ItOonf1AKjY

The part about “eating right” is especially rich… considering the vested interests in the program.

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weiser 1 year, 9 months ago

Legalize DUIs for illegals, while we are at it. Kill some more "legal" families.

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RogueThrill 1 year, 9 months ago

Imagine that. The economy in slow recovery and Americans stop demonizing the Other. Surely there is some sort of correlation.

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observant 1 year, 9 months ago

This forum is proof that racism is alive and well.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 9 months ago

"Anti-illegal-immigration fervor may be waning" There, I fixed it for you.

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tange 1 year, 9 months ago

"To simply put the two groups together and pretend they're one and the same is to do a disservice to both groups and is an affront to the truth."

Would that be TRUTH with a lowercase "c?"

/ i.e., "convention"

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 9 months ago

As with any "honest" discussion regarding immigration, a clear distinction needs to be made between legal immigration and illegal immigration. To simply put the two groups together and pretend they're one and the same is to do a disservice to both groups and is an affront to the truth.

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BornAgainAmerican 1 year, 9 months ago

Unauthorized work force? Looks like the left has found yet another name for illegal immigrants. Of course they are now "authorized" by the Authorizer in Chief. And just in time for the election.

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Armstrong 1 year, 9 months ago

And yet LEGAL immigration is alive and well

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