Though Arizona’s racist SB1070—more commonly known as the “papers please” law—was ultimately gutted by the Supreme Court and lawsuits, it didn’t go without a huge cost. Arizona ended up losing hundreds of million of dollars in revenue and left companies struggling to fill positions, after more than 200,000 undocumented immigrant residents fled the state. Immigration advocates have tried to warn other states considering similar legislation—Texas, most recently—that history should be an important lesson here. But with Gov. Greg Abbott recently signing hateful and discriminatory “show me your papers” legislation that puts a target squarely on the backs of millions of Latino and immigrant residents, Texas could soon join Arizona in learning a lesson the hard way:
The overall impact to [Arizona’s] convention and tourism industry alone was $752 million in completed and potential cancellations and booking declines, Landfried testified to the U.S. Senate judiciary committee in 2012. That involved more than 4,200 lost jobs.
Industry leaders said they lost money when they couldn't complete jobs because they didn't have enough workers.
"Immigrant labor left the state. It was a ghost town," said Sheridan Bailey, president of Ironco Enterprises, a steel fabrication company in Arizona. "We had about 40 steel fabricators when (SB) 1070 came around, and now we have about eight."
In 2014, Gov. Jan Brewer (remember her?) vetoed anti-gay legislation after public outcry and fears it would be a “papers please” boycott redux. “Some economists have found that the [immigrant] exodus reduced Arizona's gross domestic product by roughly 2 percent a year,” notes the Houston Chronicle, not to mention the fact “that all of Arizona's residents, no matter their legal status, contribute to property taxes paying for education, whether they own homes or rent.” According to the most recent data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants in Arizona pay more than $210,000,000 in state and local taxes annually. And plenty of them would be more than happy to show their tax returns to prove it, too.
It’s not just massive financial losses that Texas will be facing over this “show me your papers” legislation. SB1070 continues to be a stain on Arizona, with immigrant and Latino distrust of local law enforcement officers continuing to be a problem—Tucson’s police chief said “his department has struggled to battle the perception that police are doubling as immigration agents”—and the city of Oakland, California, recently declining “Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's invitation to a Governing Magazine summit this month, reportedly citing an ongoing travel ban due to the 2010 legislation”:
"This was a complete disaster for our state from an image perspective and from an economic perspective," said Lisa Urias, the president of a large advertising agency and a member of the boards of the Greater Phoenix Leadership Council and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "There is still lingering damage that is there, and we are still a state that feels very raw about this issue."
In Texas, seven local law enforcement chiefs and leaders had signed their names onto an op-ed against the legislation, writing that the bill is “political pandering that will make our communities more dangerous ... this legislation is bad for Texas and will make our communities more dangerous for all.” One Democratic state senator warned that “I’m afraid this legislation will lead to harassment and profiling of Latinos.”
According to Buzzfeed, “officials from the National Council of La Raza, the Latino Victory Project, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and other groups have begun mapping out potential responses” to the “show me your papers” legislation, including a boycott. In North Carolina, the boycott over the transphobic “bathroom bill” is expected to cost the state nearly $4 billion over the next decade. With major brands like Dell, Pizza Hut, ExxonMobil, AT&T, and 7-Eleven calling Texas home—and advocates showing that they can indeed make financial dents in states like Arizona and North Carolina—there’s a chance Texas could be in for some serious blowback.