How S.B. 20 – The Arizona-Copycat Bill – Would Hurt South Carolina
Arizona-copycat laws are costly, hostile and unconstitutional.
South Carolinians have every right to be frustrated with the federal government’s failure to fix our immigration system, but the passage of an Arizona-copycat bill would do far more harm than good at a time when the state can least afford it. Such a law would not address any of the serious challenges that our state faces right now. It would not create jobs, balance our budget, recruit professionals and workers, offer affordable health care, educate our children or protect our environment. It would make our challenges more difficult by draining resources and sowing division in communities that need to work together to fix pressing problems.
While the latest draft of S.B. 20 remains loosely worded and open to interpretation, we do know it would require police to ask a person about his immigration status during any lawful stop or detention in which officers have “reasonable suspicion” immigration laws have been violated. Consequently, police would be more likely to stop “foreign-looking” people, or non-whites, for minor infractions – such as having a broken taillight or an overgrown lawn – and demand they produce papers. Not one lawmaker in Arizona or South Carolina has defined “reasonable suspicion.”
Lawful immigrants would be forced to carry immigration papers at all times. Those without could be charged with a crime and jailed until their legal status has been certified. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of lawful immigrants are in this country awaiting determination of their legal status. No documentation is available to them, despite the fact immigration officials know they are here and in the system. Under S.B. 20, law-abiding immigrants could be detained for extensive periods.
The same would be true for domestic-violence victims who have applied for special visas. They usually wait here for months before receiving documentation. Should we jail battered women who escaped their tormentors?
In addition, many lawful immigrants do not want to carry their immigration papers for fear they will be stolen, lost or destroyed. While there are federal laws requiring certain non-citizens to carry documentation, our government has never charged anyone with a crime for failing to do so. Trained federal immigration officials review immigration documents in specific circumstances when they encounter individuals who they know are not citizens. They do not simply approach people based on what they think an immigrant might look like and demand papers.
Furthermore, S.B. 20 would require police to detain suspects until their immigration status has been verified. Never mind that few police agencies in South Carolina are capable of doing so. Instead, they would have to contact overstretched federal immigration officials, who frankly don’t have the time to for these case-by-case fishing expeditions. Therefore, immigrants, who for very good reasons did not have their immigration documents on them, could sit in jail for what S.B. 20 terms a “reasonable amount of time.” A “reasonable amount of time” also remains undefined.
An expensive patchwork of state and local laws is not the answer to our immigration problem. Our communities need common-sense, humane reform at the federal level – reform that upholds our values, abides by the Constitution and moves us forward. Meanwhile, state legislators can lay favorable groundwork by supporting community policing, wage enforcement, enhanced worker-safety protections, English-language instruction, and small-business entrepreneurs.
A Review of the Costs of S.B. 20
An Arizona-copycat law in South Carolina would…
Signify that our state tolerates racial profiling, which would invite economic boycotts and repel talented professionals during a time of recession and budget deficits.
- Arizona has lost sporting events, conferences, and meetings to other states to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. A recent economic study estimates $141 million in lost spending as of November 2010. In the first week alone, the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association reported that 19 meetings had been cancelled because of the law, representing $6 million in lost revenue to the state. (“Arizona tourism loses more business in wake of immigration law vote,” The Washington Post, 5/12/10, “Early Economic Impact of SB 1070: Tourism Takes $6 Million Hit in First Week,” The Tucson Weekly, 5/3/10, Stop the Conference: The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Conference Cancellations Due to Arizona’s S.B. 1070, http://www.americanprogress.org)
- The City of Phoenix has estimated that boycotts could cost the city $90 million in hotel and convention business over five years, not including incidental spending in local restaurants and shops. (“Phoenix Counts Big Boycott Cost,” The New York Times, 5/11/10)
- In July, Arizona’s governor allocated $250,000 to help repair the state’s image because its “brand has been beaten up,” and “there is a sense that [Arizona] has fallen to the bottom, maybe as far as the South in the 1960s,” according to business leaders. (“Arizona Leaders Call on Brewer to Fix State’s Image,” The Arizona Republic, 9/9/10)
- Arizona-copycat laws create a “show me your papers” environment that can result in lengthy detentions for any of us not carrying sufficient documentation at all times. Such a police-state atmosphere would give pause to any professional thinking of locating his family here and would harm and humiliate South Carolinians of color.
Compel the state to defend an unconstitutional law and incur expensive legal bills.
- Federal courts repeatedly have struck down the Arizona-copycat laws, leaving states and localities with high legal bills. Just at the city level, unconstitutional immigration laws have cost Hazleton, PA – $2.4 million; Farmers Branch, TX – +$3.2 million; and Riverside, NJ - $82,000. Fremont, Nebraska, recently budgeted $750,000 and an 18% tax increase for the first year of defending its immigration ordinance. (“Farmers Branch Legal Costs Rise in Immigration Fight,” The Dallas Morning News, 4/10/10, “Attorneys want Hazleton to pay fees,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/5/07, “Towns Rethink Laws Against Illegal Immigrants,” The New York Times, 9/26/07, “Council Adopts New Budget,” Fremont Tribune, 9/15/10)
- South Carolina currently is facing a more than $700 million shortfall since the previous fiscal year, and the cost of defending an Arizona-copycat bill could easily run into the millions of dollars.
- The same attorney helped draft the Arizona law and each of the laws mentioned above. These laws are all failing in court. (“Federal Judge Strikes Down Farmers Branch Ordinance,” The Dallas Morning News, 3/24/10, “Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Hazleton’s Immigration Ordinances,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/10/10)
Impose an unfunded mandate on law enforcement.
- In Prince William County, Virginia, the only county to implement an Arizona-copycat law, county supervisors repealed the law after finding it would cost a minimum of $14 million for five years.
- A factsheet by Arizona’s Yuma County Sheriff Ralph E. Ogden estimated that a bill similar to his state’s S.B. 1070 would cost between $775,880 and $1,163,820 in processing expenses; between $21,195,600 and $96,086,720 in jail costs; and between $810,067 and $1,620,134 in attorney and staff fees.
- South Carolina is already deep in the red, and we cannot afford another costly mandate. The state has cut funding for education, small business development, mental health services, child protection services, foster care and assistance to the poor and disabled. Taking on an expensive mandate to arrest and detain immigrants – which would require extra training of law enforcement officers and supervision – will only exacerbate this fiscal disaster.
Endanger communities and take police off the street.
- Many top law-enforcement officials have opposed the anti-immigrant laws, including the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, noting that fear of police will diminish the public’s willingness to report crimes and assist with investigations, thereby damaging their ability to protect the community (AACOP statement).
- Outgoing Chief Reggie Lloyd of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has raised concerns that Arizona-copycat laws take police off the streets. The cost of S.B. 20’s implementation would cut into police budgets and, consequently, manpower. It would mean officers spend more time at their desks, processing immigration status for individuals without criminal records, rather than fighting crime in the streets.
- In addition, federal law requires jails to meet certain standards before they are approved as holding facilities for immigrants. Only five jails in South Carolina have qualified to house people for immigration violations, meaning law enforcement might have to transport immigration violators to federal detention facilities outside the state. This is expensive and, again, takes cops off their beats.
- If local police are burdened with federal law enforcement, other serious crimes, including those that pose much more imminent danger to public safety, get lower priority.
Expand a policy created to grow prison-industry profits on the taxpayers’ dime.
- An October 2010 NPR investigative report revealed “a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona S.B. 1070 by … the private prison industry.” The law was born in a hotel room meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a membership organization that includes the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – the largest private prison company in the country. According to CCA reports obtained by NPR, its “executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market.” Thirty of 36 Arizona co-sponsors received donations from prison lobbyists or prison companies. (“Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law, NPR, 10/28/10)
Allow out-of-state groups to conduct a legislative experiment, while leaving us to suffer its consequences.
- Arizona-copycat laws often rely on the work of Kris Kobach, attorney for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a well-funded national organization, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (a leading civil rights organization), because of its founder’s writings and its alliances with white nationalist groups. Kobach helped draft the Arizona law and other local immigration ordinances that are failing in the courts.
- Former city councilwoman Carol Dingman of Farmers Branch, TX, a town with a Kobach-sponsored ordinance, said: “Our mayor said [Kobach] was an expert…who would help the city on a pro-bono basis…. We will have paid almost $4 million in legal fees at the end of this fiscal year. Mr. Kobach was paid $100,000 of that. So much for pro bono.” (Sand Mountain Reporter 4/3/10, mediamattersaction.org)
The costs of S.B. 20 are evident and plentiful, while the benefits are unclear to all but the most fearful xenophobes.