I posted some pretty strong views on how effective the new employer sanctions law taking effect January 1st will be, and expressed concern about their impact on Arizona’s
economy. State Representative Kavanagh, one of the sponsors of the
sanctions bill here in Arizona, responded to my post and I invited him to respond to two questions, as well as make any other comments or arguments he might wish:

1) Just how does this legislation actually address the problem of
immigration, rather than simply punishing people to make it appear that
something is being done, and

2) how can this legislation can be implemented without grave harm to
Arizona’s economy where an estimated 1/8th of the workforce is
undocumented labor?

To his credit, Rep. Kavanagh immediately accepted my invitation and prepared the following guest post for this blog. Consider how many Democrats would accept such an invitation from Espresso Pundit or Red State Arizona… credit Rep. Kavanagh with conviction, at least.


Please keep in mind these are Rep. Kavanagh’s views and by publishing them here I do not endorse these views. I am presenting them so that his ideas can be fairly expressed and then critically engaged by readers, and ultimately by myself as well.

Please respond respectfully and factually. Take issue with his premises, his data, his reasoning, and his conclusions, even his prior voting record and public statements, but please avoid purely ad hominem attacks or emotional tirades. They aren’t helpful – even if they can be lots of fun. Please keep in mind the questions I asked him, and focus on those and other issues of the public welfare.

"Arizona’s new Employer Sanctions Law is the third prong of a comprehensive program to deter people from entering the United States illegally and to get those already here to leave on their own. The other two parts of the reduction program are denial of public benefits and increased border security.

The Employer Sanctions Law compliments existing federal law which makes it illegal to be present in the country without legal authorization. While this existing law goes after the illegal immigrants (supply side strategy), the new Employer Sanctions Law makes it unprofitable for businesses to hire them (demand side strategy). This demand side strategy is based upon a mixture of simple economics and common sense.

I believe that early anecdotal information suggests that the law is working. In addition, more solid evidence related to decreasing school enrollments and increased applications for Mexican birth certificates at the Phoenix Mexican Consulate also suggest that illegals are leaving. While some of the exodus is surely due to the depressed construction industry, I believe the new law is also partially responsible.

Arizona’s economy will not be gravely harmed by this reduction in the illegal worker population because illegal immigrants are a drain on Arizona’s economy and we would be better off without them. (See the December 2007 Congressional Budget Office Report "The Impact of Unauthorized Immigration on the Budgets of State and Local Governments" (PDF download))

It is estimated that Arizona taxpayers are burdened with costs of about $1.3 billion per year because of illegals residing in our state. That estimate only includes expenditures for education, emergency medical care and incarceration and does not include the costs for other government services and law enforcement.

The $1.3 billion estimate also does not include the bill for benefits to the children of illegals born here who, by virtue of citizenship, are entitled to full government services, including welfare and costly government-sponsored health insurance. Were their parents not here illegally, we would not be paying these expenses.

Illegal immigrants harm Arizona’s economy in other ways:

  • By working for lower wages, illegals lower market wages and take good jobs away from legal residents.
  • Because hospitals cannot recoup all of the uncompensated costs of treating illegals, they raise the bills of legal residents who consequently pay higher medical bills or health insurance premiums.
  • Uncompensated medical outlays for illegals are now estimated at about $400 million per year.
  • Maricopa County Hospital loses $2 million weekly on uncompensated care due largely to illegal immigrants.
  • At least one hospital in Cochise County has filed for bankruptcy and may close due to uncompensated care.

Illegal immigrants also degrade our state in other non-economic ways. Our national parks near the Mexican border have been environmentally scarred by the unauthorized roads and trails illegals create and the trash they leave behind, as they illegally enter our country.

Of course, most legal residents never see this damage because they are too afraid to visit our parks due to the violence that accompany the illegal entrants in the form of companion drug traffickers and coyotes.

In some areas of Douglas, residents are so fearful of transient illegals that they do not go out alone at night. In Phoenix, illegal day laborers and their supporters are disrupting a community and attempting to destroy a neighborhood family business that dared speak out against the harm, fear and disorder that loitering and trespassing illegal day laborers cause.

Illegal immigrants also make our communities unsafe. Illegals make up 8% of Arizona’s population but comprise over 12% of the felons incarcerated in our prisons. That means that illegals are 50% more likely to commit serious crimes than legal residents and that’s a fact that police chiefs in sanctuary cities ignore but cannot deny.

Since many illegal immigrants drive illegally without auto insurance, the cost of insurance to the rest of us increases to pay for damages caused by uninsured illegals. The list of additional costs goes on and on.

Supporters of illegal immigrant labor claim that illegals also give back to the economy by the taxes they pay. However, because many illegals work “off the books” where they pay no taxes and those that work “on the books” often do so at near-minimum wage rates that do not trigger income tax collection, illegal immigrants contribute little in taxes beyond a small amount of sales tax.

Illegal immigrants are only an economic benefit to unscrupulous businesses who hire them for cheap wages to maximize their own profit and give themselves a competitive advantage over honest businesses that obey the law and pay a living wage.

The claim that the exodus of illegal immigrants would harm Arizona’s economy is also based upon the false premise that our workforce is currently operating at 100% efficiency and that the loss of a fraction of it could not be partially made up by the increased productivity of existing workers and automation.

This same claim has been made in the past by both government and private sector workers facing layoffs during tight fiscal times. Those workers claimed that staff reductions would have dire consequences. Yet, all of the governments and most of the private companies that reduced their workforces carried on, as the employees that remained worked more efficiently.

The final false premise advanced by advocates of illegal labor is that the federal government will not increase the number of guest workers to make up for the lost illegal workers. While Congress does appear deadlocked on how to handle the illegal immigrants currently in the United States, one of the few areas of agreement among parties on both sides of the illegal immigration issue is that guest workers are alright, so long as they are admitted in a controlled manner that does not jeopardize the jobs or wages of Americans. Guest workers are available and are politically and economically feasible.

In conclusion, illegal immigration threatens our nation in both economic and non-economic ways and the near-open border that facilitates it threatens our national security.  Illegal immigration insults our laws, increases crime and poverty rates, strains our social service and educational systems, and costs taxpayers billions of dollars more each year.

And what do we get in return – a hamburger that costs 10 cents less? It’s just not worth the savings.

We must stop illegal immigration now and Arizona is doing that by denying jobs and benefits to illegals. If the federal government would do its job by securing the border and providing businesses with carefully screened guest workers to fill the jobs that legal workers cannot fill, we just might be able to solve the divisive and costly problem of illegal immigration."

State Representative John Kavanagh is a Republican who represents Arizona’s Legislative District 8, which includes Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Rio Verde. He was a co-sponsor of the Arizona Employer Sanctions Law and maintains the anti-illegal immigration website, www.protectAZborder.com.