SB 1070, Birthright Citizenship, and the Coming GOP Tug-o-War

SB 1070, Birthright Citizenship, and the Coming GOP Tug-o-War

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Several GOP lawmakers who took a hardline position on immigration after SB 1070 passed in Arizona are using the party’s electoral success to push for ending “birthright citizenship” in the next Congress. But a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) says that Arizona is feeling the economic impact of SB 1070 just from conferences and conventions that have boycotted the state. Angela Kelley is CAP's vice president for immigration policy and advocacy.

The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association reported a loss of $15 million in lodging revenue in four months because of SB 1070. Why does your report say the real figure that is at least three times that amount?

Not everyone belongs to the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association. They actually thought it was a pretty low estimate. And there were some big conferences that were cancelled that were not captured by that figure. Our researcher thought that $45 million  was an underestimate.

How sizable is this in the scheme of things?

It’s not just hotels not being booked, It’s also cars not being rented and food not being bought. That could bring the number up to $141 million. You have to think of this in two buckets—conferences and conventions that were booked that have been cancelled. And then there is the decline in bookings. That’s an estimate of $76 million in lost spending.

These are a lot of numbers. But there is one simple message—the economic impact isn’t limited to undocumented Latinos. It hurts every Arizonan in the pocketbook. This is money that is not in the pocket of Arizonans because of [Gov.] Jan Brewer. This ship has already sailed in Arizona. But other states really need to be aware of this.

Our goal is to really shed economic light on the consequences of something like SB 1070. The fact is, Arizona can enforce every portion of the law, if the injunction were lifted, and it would not stop illegal immigration, it [wouldn't] fix the immigration problem. But it has been proven to hurt Arizona economically.

You write that the backlash proves the catastrophic impacts of pursuing harsh, state-based immigration policies and should give other state legislatures pause before pursuing such measures. But GOP lawmakers seem emboldened enough by SB1070 to go after birthright citizenship.

Those who drive the restrictionist bus will keep driving it. They won’t take their foot off the gas just because of this report or any other report. I don’t think Lamar Smith [a GOP congressman from Ft. Worth, Texas, who is in line to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January] will read the report and change his mind about Arizona. This report is not about speaking to them. Lamar Smith has made his agenda clear. He wants Arizona to happen across the country. He wants to strip the president of his authority over deportation. He wants to take on the 14th Amendment. And he’s not even in the chair yet.

But this report sheds a different light. So a Florida House member who is tempted to get on the Lamar Smith bandwagon should think again about what might be the economic impact of doing that.

But the restrictionists use the economic argument, too. Rep. Steve King of Iowa said, “Many of these illegal aliens are giving birth to children in the United States so that they can have uninhibited access to taxpayer-funded benefits and to citizenship for as many family members as possible.”

That’s a bigger debate. Children have always been used in this argument. Children do cost more and that includes my children. But it’s not because of their immigration status. But take the long view±see what happens to people over time. In the long term, those children are just as good as the other children whose parents were legal residents.

But what’s the signal the GOP is sending by targeting citizenship by birth?

The GOP is feeling emboldened after the election. Steve King and Lamar Smith can make trouble. The question is what will [the new Speaker of the House] John Boehner do. It’s one thing for a bill to come out of committee, it’s another thing for it to be scheduled for vote in the House. I see Boehner as a rope in the tug-o-war. On one side are people like Smith and King. On the other end of the rope are the Republican presidential candidates who are looking at the math and thinking, "How will I become president if I lose certain states?" That’s the quandary for Boehner.

In the midst of this, what are the prospects for the DREAM Act? Is a lame-duck session ironically a better window to pass it?

Yes it is. Republicans can no longer complain that it’s part of the Defense Authorization bill. So they can vote about a policy they have said they supported. But 60 is still the magic number. We are not there yet.

But are immigration advocates signaling that this is the last window available at least for the next two years? Does this signal the end of comprehensive immigration reform for now?

That’s not an unreasonable conclusion, given the makeup of the Senate and the House. There is a bit of a sense of déjà vu. But I have to say, the DREAM Act is an important sympathetic measure. I think it deserves to be a stand-alone bill. It’s a stepping stone.

But anti-immigration advocates say SB 1070 was just a stepping stone to target the 14th Amendment. Is the strategy to take this to the Supreme Court, where they feel they will have a better chance than trying to pass a constitutional amendment?

I think there is a litigation strategy there. I do think they are not afraid to test this in the highest court. Whether they can win, I don’t know.
 

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