The Impact Of A Mixed SB 1070 Ruling On Arizona
June 25, 2012

Cochise County Sheriff's Office
Cochise, Ariz. County Sheriff Larry Dever

PHOENIX -- The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday on Arizona’s immigration law, known as SB 1070. It was a mixed ruling. The court struck down most of the law, but upheld the most controversial provision.

The state of Arizona has already spent nearly $3 million defending the law. And the investment was worth it, according to state leaders like Governor Jan Brewer. She called the court’s ruling a victory for states like Arizona struggling with illegal immigration.

"We cannot forget that we are here today because the federal government failed the American people regarding immigration policy, has failed to protect its citizens, has failed to protect the rule of law and failed to secure our borders," Brewer said Monday.

The court struck down three provisions of the law, but upheld what supporters call the heart of SB1070 -– the part that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally.

"I consider it a win," said Larry Dever, the sheriff of Cochise County, which borders Mexico. He said the court’s decision won’t really change the way his deputies patrol along the border, because they’ve been turning illegal immigrants over to federal authorities for decades. But Dever says the ruling will be a deterrent for people to cross illegally in the first place.

"One of the purposes of it was to deliver a very strong message to people coming into Arizona that this is not the place you want to come. So we anticipate reduced traffic across the border," Dever said.

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So what does that mean for the state’s economy? Pablo Alvarado, who heads the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, puts it this way: "It only makes it more difficult."

Since 2009, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 illegal immigrants left Arizona on their own. It’s unclear whether it was the state’s weak job market or the political climate that spurred that departure. But Alvarado says workers in low-skilled industries -- like construction and agriculture -- will go further underground.

"The question is how that employer is going to replace that worker, and this has huge impacts on the economy of Arizona," Alvarado said.

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Not everyone in these industries expect a mass exodus of workers. Tim Dunn is a farmer in the southern Arizona city of Yuma. He said most of the people who planned on leaving have already left. Dunn grows broccoli and wheat, and he barely has enough seasonal workers to get by.

"The longer we debate whether or not the state can enforce the law or the federal government can enforce the law, we’re not focusing on the visa reform and labor reform we need. We’re just focusing on who has the right to do the enforcement," Dunn said.

Dunn hopes the country moves quickly on labor and visa reform. Because once the economy picks up again, he’s going to need a lot more workers in his fields.

Michel Marizco contributed to this story.

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