Arizona economy bracing for immigration crackdown

I don't want to go on being just a root in the shadows,
vacillating, extended, shivering with dream,
down in the damp bowels of earth,
absorbing it, thinking it, eating it every day.

-Pablo Neruda from 'Walking Around'

Border issues in the news...

PHOENIX, Arizona (AFP) — New laws targeting employers who hire illegal immigrants take effect here on January 1, with experts predicting the move may cost the state's economy billions of dollars in lost income and taxes.

The new laws are described as the toughest local anti-illegal immigration legislation in the United States, and will sanction businesses who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

Any employer who falls foul of the law will see their business license suspended for 10 days for a first offense; a second infraction will see the license permanently revoked.

Judith Gans, a University of Arizona immigration policy expert who has studied the economic impact of illegal immigrants, said the new law will have a dramatic effect on the local economy.

"Industries will shrink and prices will go up," Gans told AFP.

The price of a hamburger, a head of lettuce, and a week's worth of gardening services will all increase as workforces shrink, Gans said.

Illegal immigrants "are filling gaps in the labor force, and as those gaps widen, prices will go up," she said. "That theory is not contested."

According to an October study released by Gans, Arizona's foreign-born population has tripled in less than two decades, from about 269,000 in 1990 to 831,000 in 2004.

Experts peg the state's illegal immigrant population at about half a million. Workers, mainly from Mexico, flock to pick lettuce in Yuma, make sushi in Phoenix, and clean hotel rooms in Flagstaff.

According to Gans' study, they make up 59 percent of the workforce in farming; 27 percent in construction; 51 percent in landscaping; 26 percent in hotel work; 23 percent in restaurants; 33 percent in private homes; and 46 percent in textile manufacturing.

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