Impact of Illegal Immigrant Laws being felt
Tough laws in Arizona and Oklahoma are driving illegal immigrants to Texas (h/t):
Illegal immigrants are flowing into Texas across its long borders. But they aren’t just swimming across the Rio Grande from Mexico or making dangerous treks through the rugged desert.
Instead, a new rush of illegal immigrants are driving down Interstate 35 from Oklahoma or heading east to Texas from Arizona to flee tough new anti-illegal immigrant laws in those and other states.
Though few numbers are available because illegal residents are difficult to track, community activists say immigrants have arrived in Houston and Dallas in recent months, and they expect hundreds more families to relocate to the Bayou City soon.
”They’re really tightening the screws,” said Mario Ortiz, an undocumented Mexican worker who came to Houston after leaving Phoenix last year. ”There have been a lot coming — it could be 100 a day.”
The growing exodus is the result of dozens of new state and local laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration. The two toughest measures are in Oklahoma and Arizona.
The Oklahoma statute, which took effect in November, makes it a crime to transport, harbor or hire illegal immigrants. Effective Jan. 1, the Arizona law suspends the business license of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. On a second offense, the license is revoked.
”It’s a wave that’s happening across the United States,” said Nelson Reyes, executive director of the Central American Resource Center in Houston, which has helped immigrants who recently relocated in Houston from Virginia and South Carolina. ”There is a migration, within the United States, to the states and cities more receptive to the reality of the undocumented immigrant.”
So far, results of the new laws have been dramatic.
The short-term affect on the Oklahoma City economy has been negative:
”Thirty percent of our Hispanic labor force left Tulsa — it was a huge hit, and it was almost overnight,” said Greg Simmons, owner of Simmons Homes, Tulsa’s largest home builder.
Based on his conversations with subcontractors, Simmons said they went to Texas and Kansas or returned to Mexico….Business leaders say local police in Tulsa have mounted a campaign to target immigrants and have deported many after they were arrested for minor traffic offenses.
”I think we swung the pendulum too far; we’re hurting people, the immigrant families, and we’re going to hurt the economy,” said Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma State Homebuilders Association, which has 3,600 members across the state.
The effect of the new law can be seen in the many signs advertising rental property vacated by departing immigrants, said David Castillo, the executive director of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
”There’s been a tremendous impact in Oklahoma City,” Castillo said. “We’ve had several companies close shop and leave the state. Banks have called us and say they’re closing 30 accounts per week.”
Requiring companies to hire legal workers (either with a work visa or who are American citizens) would eventually help the economy long-term as wages would inevitably rise. Too many companies have been operating under the assumption that cheap, easy (under the table) labor was available. A new reality has set in and they will have to adjust (kinda like state government, no?).
Finally, Enrique Hubbard, Mexico’s consul general in Dallas, thinks that most immigrants “…will relocate [within the United States]. They will at least give it one more try… It’s very difficult to cross the border, and expensive, too.” Essentially, barring the passage of national immigration reform, we have a system that is evolving into states that either repel or attract illegal immigrants, based on their current laws.