Why Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Is Bluffing on State Immigration Laws

jan brewerArizona Governor Jan Brewer has built a political career out of playing fast and loose with the facts about immigrants—from stories of “headless bodies” in the desert to mischaracterizing all unauthorized immigrants as “drug mules.” And she’s not finished yet. Following a recent GOP Presidential debate, Gov. Brewer overplayed her hand by assuring the Huffington Post that unauthorized immigrants fleeing Alabama are “probably going back to Mexico” and that Alabama farmers will “probably find the U.S. workers” they need to replace them. If you think Governor Brewer is “probably” bluffing, you’re “probably” right.

It may be comforting for supporters of harsh state immigration laws to think Brewer’s claims are right. Immigrants, Latinos and their families, however, are “probably” not leaving the U.S. and, as Brewer said, “going back to Mexico.” First of all, not all unauthorized immigrants are Mexican. Secondly, not even during the recent economic recession was there any evidence that Mexican immigrants were returning to Mexico. A recent study from the RAND Corporation found that, despite improved economic conditions in Mexico and worsened conditions in the United States, fewer Mexican immigrants returned to Mexico in 2008 and 2009 than in the two years before the recession.

The truth about the impact of state immigration laws is far more complicated. While it’s possible that some unauthorized immigrants might be returning home, it’s more likely they are fleeing to either neighboring states or states where family members live.

Why? Evidence suggests that many unauthorized immigrants are firmly integrated into U.S. society. According to a Department of Homeland Security report, three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants who were in the country as of 2010 (11.1 million) were here for more than a decade. These immigrants live here; they work here; they send their U.S. citizen children to school here. In fact, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that roughly 8.8 million people in the U.S. live in a mixed-status home—meaning that one or more direct family member is unauthorized.

And just because an unauthorized immigrant leaves a job doesn’t mean there’s an unemployed U.S. citizen standing in line to fill it. Governor Brewer is attempting to sell the same false “jobs creation story” that many supporters have used to justify passing strict immigration laws.

Thus far, Alabama farmers have been unsuccessful in attempts to recruit American workers. And it’s not just because Americans are unwilling to do the work. It’s because unauthorized immigration is not the cause of unemployment. Experts, like Daniel Griswold from the libertarian CATO Institute, have pointed out that immigrants and unemployed U.S. workers have different education and experience levels and work in different occupations. We cannot simply swap one for the other or deport our way out of unemployment.

seth hoyThe role unauthorized immigrants play in our workforce and economy is far more complicated than Brewer’s misguided assumptions. While it may be easy to scapegoat unauthorized immigrants for high unemployment rates, driving them from state to state is not going to solve our employment or immigration problems. It will, however, create new economic problems for states and small businesses…“probably.”

Seth Hoy
Immigration Impact 


  1. Jeff Ridges says

    We need to stop arguing economics, ethics and semantics. The point is this: WE WHITES have done a marvelous job getting rid of Indians, pushing their people, South of the border. This is a White, Christian nation and that’s how we want it. No blacks, no mexicans, no chinese, no armenians and no Somalians. Just pure bred White Americans, the way our Forefathers intended this Country to be. Rick, Jack and Ray, isn’t that what WE want? We have a God-given right to own this Country and shape laws according to our vision. That’s what FREEDOM is! Want oil? Take it from the Muslims. Need cheap labor? Hire Mexicans and the Chinese. Want this great land for ourselves? Kick ’em all out!

    • Jack says

      Jeff, you’ve got a serious case of “White Guilt.” May I suggest that you take a moment to think about your personal life and determine if you personally have ever “gotten rid of Indians, pushed people south of the border, or done anything remotely racist. If you have, then you’d better make amends. If you haven’t then please stop acting like all white people are evil.

      BTW, Native Americans terrorized, raped and killed other Native Americans for 10,000 before the white Europeans arrived. In fact, they even destroyed the Caucasian people that lived in North America before the darker skinned people (Native Americans) moved north from South America and wiped them out. (Those Caucasians came to N. America via the Atlantic ice bridge 17,000 years ago, only to be oppressed, terrorized and destroyed 10,000 years ago by the ancestors of the people we now call “Native Americans.”) So who are the bad guys? You apparently think it’s the whites, but a closer look at human history belies your assumptions. (In case you’re confused, that means you’re wrong, dude.)

      So quit whining about whites oppressing dark skinned people. The amount of inter-racial oppression that has occurred throughout history pales in comparison to the amount of SAME-skin oppression. That is simply because people of similar skin colors resided in the same areas of the world, and ALL people throughout history have jockeyed for power, which often results in “the Other” being destroyed. Tribal warfare is human nature. In fact, the amount of black-on-black aggression (Africa and elsewhere) and white-on-white genocide (30 million people killed by a Russian Czar, for example) makes even the Nazi holocaust look like a puny neighborhood conflict.

      Jeff, if you really want the world to be a better place, then stop stereotyping white people as bad. More importantly, deal with your white guilt in therapy. You didn’t do anything to “those people,” and you shouldn’t feel bad if your skin color matches someone’s who did something evil. You can’t fix contemporary racism while you’re wallowing in white guilt. So get over it, recognize your own innate tribal mentality (inherent in social mammals) and let’s all start figuring out how to save the world.

  2. Agnes says

    Rick, you didn’t understanding nothing. A lot of americans are unemployed because they don’t want “dirty” their hands doing certain kind of job like: planting, cleaning houses, baby sitting, landscaping, washing cars, painting houses…Lots of americans prefer be “supported” by the government than get those kind of job.

    • Jack says

      You two are both right. But you’re having two separate conversations.  

      Yes, Agnes, lots of Americans are lazy welfare recipients. That’s a big problem we need to address if we want our country to survive this massive economic crisis.  

      But Rick is absolutely correct. Illegal aliens not only take jobs from Americans, they degrade the gains we have made over the past 100 years in the arena of workers’ rights and employment safety. Because they’re willing to work “under the table” and ignore workplace safety rules, they force the rest of us to lower our standards in order to compete. If we put employers in jail and confiscate their equipment and property when they hire illegal aliens, they’ll stop cheating us and hire American citizens instead. You see, when dishonest, unethical employers hire illegal aliens, the entire fabric of our society is destroyed. The employers get rich, and the rest of us carry the weight of illegal immigration.  

      But this is a whole different subject than the problems we face due to welfare mentality and our encouragement of “voluntary impoverishment.” We’ve made welfare too easy. It’s an inducement for people to cheat the system and live off those of us who work for a living.  

      Let’s solve both problems at once – change the Fourteenth amendment so that babies of illegal aliens are not granted “instant citizenship,” and make welfare more robust by requiring welfare recipients to work in jobs that support our country and its infrastructure.  

      Whatever we do, it should ensure that we don’t continue programs that encourage intergenerational welfare, and that doesn’t degrade the middle and working classes with massive influx if illegal aliens.

  3. Ray Bishop says

    We are a nation of immigrants and proud of it; however we are also a nation of laws theoretically based on the wishes of the people.
    Laws should be respected and enforced by our law enforcement officers without exception unless they are changed by the elected officials.
    This is a basic principal of our Country and a part of what protects us. Our respect for law and order has allowed us to prosper. It also applies to the banks and corporations as well as it applies to anyone else. Without respect for the law we are nothing more than a third world country.
    Laws are broken when there is corruption.

  4. Jack says

    So what if illegal aliens have been her ten years or more. They still need to be deported. Maybe if someone sells drugs for a decade or two, we should not arrest them because they’re integrated in their community and have been pushing drugs as a livelihood for so long now… Let’s just let them continue, right? Seth Hoy, your arguments are ridiculous.

    And just because an unauthorized immigrant leaves a job doesn’t mean there’s an unemployed U.S. citizen standing in line to fill it.

    That’s right, it’s going to be hard to get American citizens to take those jobs illegal aliens were willing to take. But that’s mostly because Americans demand minimum pay and workplace safety, and expect employers to pay the taxes they’re required by law to pay, like social security and workers comp. Those poor agribusiness millionaires are finally going to have to follow the rules, boo hoo.

    We can’t deport our way out of unemployment, but we sure as heck can stop the rampant destruction of the working and middle class. That is, if liberals stop fooling themselves and start to realize that supporting illegal immigrants is not “progressive.”

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