New Report: Unconstitutional and Costly: The High Price of Local Immigration Enforcement

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–January 24, 2011. Today the Center for American Progress released the report “Unconstitutional and Costly: The High Price of Local Immigration Enforcement” by Gebe Martinez, Senior Writer and Policy Analyst at CAP. The report analyzes the impact of the tough immigration laws enacted by small towns in New Jersey, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and one county in Virginia. According to Martinez, the immigration control measures are consistently declared unconstitutional, result in discrimination, and have far-reaching costs.

Against the backdrop of a slowly recovering economy, high unemployment, falling state and local tax revenues due to the Great Recession, and a host of problems ranging from crime to overcrowded schools, Hispanic immigrants proved to be handy scapegoats for the white majority of citizens in these communities. Never mind that these immigrants—legal and undocumented—are neither the root cause of any of these problems nor a major factor in any of them.

The result today is a series of costly legal battles that burn through city treasuries after local politicians enacted immigration enforcement ordinances that they now know are expensive to implement and defend in court.

For the taxpayers in these communities, these local ordinances were passed without leaders’ adherence to basic constitutional rights. Some unlawfully and unfairly place the burden of enforcement on businesses and landlords, harming those who sustain local economies. In most instances, the immigrants, both legal and undocumented, have fled the areas, depleting the pool of consumers and taxpayers.

This paper looks at the following five communities that enacted anti-immigration statutes onto their books without fully considering their impact:

  • Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the leader of the court fights for local immigration enforcement, is in the tank for at least $2.8 million with some estimates totaling $5 million as it defends its ordinance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Riverside, New Jersey, suffered a severe local economic downturn before the city rescinded its anti-immigrant ordinance.
  • Farmers Branch, Texas, has spent nearly $4 million in legal fees and is expected to spend at least $5 million to defend its anti-immigration statute with no end in sight.
  • Prince William County, Virginia, dramatically scaled back a tough immigration statute after realizing the original version would cost millions to enforce and defend in court.
  • Fremont, Nebraska, increased the city’s property tax to help pay the legal fees for its anti-immigration ordinance which it intends to defend.

Read the full report here.