The most quantifiable saving from Arizona’s immigration bills have been seen in reductions in costs associated with state social services.
Starting in 2004, Arizona lawmakers instituted a number of tough immigration reforms that made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to use the same state services as tax-paying citizens. Propositions 200 and 300 required proof of citizenship to receive housing assistance, child care and in-state tuition rates for higher education.
More far-reaching measures were instituted in 2008, when Arizona began requiring employers to check the legal working status of employees online by using the federal E-Verify system.
Police officers have been aided in their efforts to identify illegal immigrant through the passage of Arizona SB 1070 in 2010, allowing law enforcement to use reasonable suspicion to require proof of citizenship of people stopped for other violations. While the law was originally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, a recent settlement between immigration advocates and the state of Arizona may have neutralized its effectiveness.
A widely cited Pew Research study has indicated a sharp decline in illegal immigrants throughout the state of Arizona, with around 40,000 illegal immigrants leaving from 2009-2012.
The debate over whether or not immigration reform has resulted in a proportionate economic boom centers around whether or not savings at the state level are offset by wage increases and losses for those businesses and industries that depend upon immigrant labor.
The credit ratings service Moody’s Analytics found that employment was 2.5 percent less than it would be without the departure of undocumented immigrants from 2008-2015. Arizona’s gross domestic product also fell by 2 percent a year over the same period and for the same reason.
Judith Gans, the former head of the University of Arizona immigration policy program, deduced that undocumented and naturalized immigrants account for a net gain in $1 billion from tax revenue and consumer spending.
The social costs directly tied to illegal immigrants, though, becomes more clear once naturalized immigrants are discounted from the figures. The Federation for American Immigration Reform found that undocumented workers (and not their legal counterparts) cost taxpayers $1 billion after the taxes associated with them are subtracted.
Immigration reform in Arizona was not designed to deport or otherwise penalize legal, documented workers. Studies that look at these immigrants and their effect on local economies, then, should not be a part of any debate that looks at immigration and economic growth.
One thing is certain: as undocumented workers leave Arizona, the economy grows. Arizona has begun to outpace the nation in job
growth, leading the US in private sector growth for the first half of fiscal year 2016.
Elliot Pollack, who owns a successful real estate and consulting firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, says that 85 percent of the state’s growth in jobs occurs in the metropolitan Phoenix area. This is significant, since 72 percent of undocumented immigrants originate from Maricopa County, of which Phoenix is a part.
The state’s attempts to monitor and prohibit the employment of illegal workers is paying dividends for Arizona, both in terms of private sector growth and reduced government spending.