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From Long Island Wins: June 18, 2010

Frustrated With Broken Immigration System? Arizona Law Isn’t the Answer

Arizona’s draconian new anti-immigrant law has aroused some strong feelings, to say the least.

My column last month, calling for a boycott of Arizona in light of the state’s new law generated a lot of responses, both in Anton newspapers and on my organization’s website, Readers opined about the law from a variety of perspectives, many thoughtful, some hateful, and nearly all impassioned.

Importantly, opponents and supporters of Arizona’s law can agree on one point: our nation’s immigration system is broken, and it desperately needs fixing. It’s clear that people are frustrated – and are looking for government to take action on the same scale as the problem.

Arizona’s law, misguided as it is, is an attempt to channel that frustration. However, supporters of the new law tend to miss some key points. If you read the law, it’s clear that it will encourage racial profiling.

Also, law enforcement officers across the country don’t like the law because it will make undocumented immigrants less likely to report crimes to the police, and that jeopardizes everyone’s safety.

The majority of Americans want better border security, immigration flows that match our economic need, and for the 12 million illegal immigrants who are already here to have a pathway to earn citizenship if they learn English, pay taxes, and come under the umbrella of the law.

In fact, a majority of the supporters of the Arizona law also favor a more sensible comprehensive solution. According to a bipartisan survey, 84 percent of people who support the Arizona law also support comprehensive immigration reform.

Senator Chuck Schumer has put forth a blueprint for immigration reform roughly along those lines – shore up the borders, and then create a path to citizenship for the undocumented. But the legislative initiative is stalled, due to lawmakers who are more concerned about cultivating voter frustration about our broken immigration system than actually fixing it.

It’s a better answer than the one Arizona is trying. The law has not fully taken effect yet, but Arizona is already feeling its economic costs because of the ongoing boycott. The state has already lost an estimated $6 to 10 million in tourist revenue since the law was passed, and Phoenix alone stands to lose $90 million in tourism over the next five years.

What’s more is that if a sizable number of undocumented immigrants flee the state for fear of deportation, Arizona’s economy will take another hit. If all undocumented immigrants in the state disappeared, Arizona would lose an estimated $26.4 billion in economic activity, according to a 2008 report.

We’re all frustrated that our immigration system is broken. But we need comprehensive immigration reform, not policies that move us in the wrong direction.