Businesses Fear Restrictive Immigration Measures Will Drive Jobs to Other States

As Arizona-style enforcement legislation continues to work its way through state legislatures, local business and industry groups are beginning to realize just how much these laws will affect the way they do business. They fear the racial profiling often associated with laws targeting undocumented immigrants will create an unwelcoming environment in their state, limiting their ability to attract new business and potential workers. With many states facing severe budget deficits this year, business leaders across the U.S. are asking their legislators if their state can really afford to drive new business and jobs to neighboring, friendlier states.

Two of Indiana’s largest employers, Eli Lilly and Co. (a drug manufacturer) and Cummins Inc. (an engine manufacturer) recently issued a statement arguing that Indiana’s proposed immigration enforcement law (SB 590) will impede their ability to compete globally and grow in Indiana. To date, two Indiana Senate committees have passed SB 590 which, among other things, permits police to verify people’s immigration status in certain situations and requires that English be used in public meetings and documents and by state employees. The law now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

According to Eli Lilly and Co., Indiana has a sizeable and growing biosciences industry, with almost 90,000 employees and supporting a total of $22.7 billion in economic output, direct, indirect and induced. Spokesman Ed Sagebiel said the company’s “ability to thrive in Indiana is dependent on an environment that is welcoming.” Similarly, Cummins Inc. highlighted 550 new high-paying jobs they brought to the state as a result of Indiana’s friendliness to new business. In a joint press statement, both companies lay out why SB 590 is bad for business.

  • Anti-immigration and English-only legislation make it difficult to recruit new and educated workers and retain current employees in our Indiana communities, who simply will not move to and live in a state that is seen as unwelcoming.
  • Legislation that is directed at one group affects all groups, and Indiana will not be a place where people will want to live and work—without the ability to recruit and retain these jobs will simply go elsewhere.
  • Rather than adopt anti-immigration laws, Indiana should support laws and policies that allow and encourage top scientists and engineers from other countries to choose to work and to remain in Indiana and the United States.

Business groups in other states have also lamented Arizona-style legislation. InNashville, Tennessee, the Chamber of Commerce called Arizona-esque legislation “detrimental to work force development and international trade efforts” while the president of a local commercial real estate firm said it would “make Tennessee unattractive to businesses looking to relocate.”

The Wyoming House rejected an SB 1070 copycat bill after members of the business and industry community, including the Wyoming Contractors Association and the Wyoming Lodging & Restaurant Association, spoke out against the bill.

Farming communities in South Carolina and Georgia say Arizona-style legislation leaves their farmers—many of whom depend on seasonal labor—at a serious disadvantage to growers in other states. Georgia State Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth) claimed the bill would “put a black eye on the state of Georgia at a time when it is competing to attract international businesses.” South Carolina Farm Bureau president, David Winkles, said that these laws “don’t address the fact that we don’t have an adequate labor supply in agriculture.”

Todd Landfried at the Hinckley Institute of Politics recently forecasted Arizona’s loss this year due to SB1070—$490 million in tourism revenue, including $141 million in lost spending due to cancelled conferences,” as well as 3,000 tourism jobs. He also pointed out that some manufacturing jobs are moving operations to Texas.

And these are just the consequential costs, adding to the already large estimated cost of implementation. Fiscal notes in Utah, Kentucky and Indiana put the price tag of their immigration enforcement laws in the tens of millions of dollars.

seth hoyBack in Indiana, however, presidential hopeful Gov. Mitch Daniels said he’s not convinced of law’s negative impact on local businesses:

“I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence of that yet,” Daniels said. “You know, laws like this are advancing in dozens of states. So I don’t think there’s clear evidence of it, and I don’t think it’s the strongest claim opponents can make against it.”

If extensive research calculating Arizona’s actual loss, detailed fiscal analyses and frequent statements from business groups, farm groups, chambers of commerce, local commercial real estate firms, and contract, lodging and restaurant associations do not suffice as clear enough evidence that these laws are bad for business, what does?

Seth Hoy
Immigration Impact

Published by the LA Progressive on February 25, 2011
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