Arizona Losing Millions As A Result Of Anti-Immigration Law

As President Obama starts off 2013 with a goal of enacting comprehensive immigration reform, states that have tried to pass their own laws on the issue are suffering the ill effects of a broken immigration system. The latest example? Officials in Phoenix, Arizona are having a hard time attracting new businesses to the city, and they say Arizona’s harsh immigration law is a big part of the reason why.

The Arizona Republic has a long story exploring the suffering convention center in Phoenix, and the quotes from some local politicians show serious dismay over SB 1070, the anti-immigration law that was partially struck down by the Supreme Court last year. The law gained infamy for its ‘show me your papers’ provision, which allows law enforcement to ask for proof of residency from anyone stopped for any other reason.

Phoenix officials blame the law for the slowdown in business activity:

Projected bookings for the Phoenix Convention Center are down by as much as 30 percent for the current fiscal year compared with 2009. The city projects about 184,300 convention guests, down from a high of about 275,400 in the 2009 budget year — a difference of about $132 million in direct spending, according to the city.

Meanwhile, other cities with comparable convention facilities, including San Diego, Denver, San Antonio and Salt Lake City, have experienced a different trend. In those locales, guest counts are slowly rebounding or relatively flat.[…]

“The misperception that our city does not value diversity continues to be an impediment to attracting national convention groups,” said Scott Dunn, a spokesman for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In some cases, the damage from what happened in 2009 or 2010 won’t wash ashore until 2013 or 2014.” […]

Tracking losses tied to SB 1070 is difficult. But convention and tourism officials say it has been a frequent issue in discussions with prospective convention groups, including several that have said they will not consider Arizona because of the law.

In 2010, right after Arizona’s immigration law passed, the Center for American Progress estimated the economic losses, brought on by companies abandoning the conference industry in Arizona in the wake of SB 1070, would be $141 million for the first few months alone. It also estimated that, “Arizona businesses will lose $76 million in direct revenue from decisions not to book in Arizona in the future.” These estimates are proving true.


Other factors are influence business at the Phoenix convention center, but the losses at the Phoenix convention center just add more evidence to the argument that harsh immigration laws are, simply, bad economics.