National Immigration Forum

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SB 1070-Style Bill Would Make Illinois’ Fiscal Crisis Worse

January 19, 2011 - Posted by Dawn Mabery

The state of Illinois is making big news these days for the drastic measures its lawmakers are taking to regain control of the state budget that is in the red.  Last week, Governor Pat Quinn and lawmakers approved a raise in taxes on incomes and businesses.  Their actions have been openly ridiculed by other governors who say they will gladly welcome the businesses that may leave Illinois due to the tax hike. 


Like many other states, Illinois is facing a multibillion dollar deficit—a $15 billion shortfall to be exact, including $8 billion in unpaid bills to social service agencies, hospitals, and schools.  Reports also indicate that the state had the lowest credit rating in the nation. 


As bad as the state’s fiscal situation is now, some Illinois lawmakers will be pushing for an Arizona SB 1070-style law (HB 6937) to crack down on undocumented immigrants.  If the effort succeeds, it could make the state’s fiscal crisis considerably worse.


Directly impacting the state’s budget would be the cost of litigating and implementing the law.  A recent report indicates that a state neighboring Illinois, Kentucky, could pay $40 million a year in court, prison, and foster-care costs associated with its proposed version of the Arizona law. 


More significantly, there is the collateral damage associated with the law.  SB 1070 has already cost Arizona’s tourism industry $253 million in economic output, more than $86 million in lost wages, and about 2,800 lost jobs as a result of boycotts.


For Illinois, immigrant workers are essential to the economy. According to reports, the state would lose more than $25 billion in economic activity if all undocumented immigrants were removed.  Also, immigrant consumers add more than $65 billion to the state economy and immigrant entrepreneurs employ more than 150,000 people in Illinois.  Not all economic activity from immigrants would cease, but driving out undocumented immigrants also means driving out their family members—some of whom are legal residents or citizens, so the impact goes beyond just the economic activity of undocumented immigrants.


With a budget deficit of $15 billion, including $8 billion in unpaid bills, a harsh immigration enforcement measure is something Illinois cannot afford.  Lawmaker should instead focus their energies on how to maximize the proven valuable economic contributions that immigrants have made to the state.


To read more about the Illinois budget cuts, the economic power of immigrants in Illinois, and the potential impact of an SB 1070-style law, please see the links below.


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