Arizona immigration law exodus pushing problem to other states

Without national migrant reform, similar laws may spread across U.S.

June 30, 2010

WASHINGTON - Arizona's tough new immigration law is driving undocumented families out. A few of the immigrants are returning to Mexico, but many simply are pulling up stakes and relocating to other parts of the United States.

From Arizona's perspective, that is a sign that Senate Bill 1070 is already starting to achieve its goal of "attrition through enforcement," even though the measure spearheaded by state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, doesn't go into effect until July 29. But some policymakers see Arizona's fix as merely shoving its problems onto other states. They say a national solution, comprehensive immigration reform, is needed to appropriately address the border breakdown, and they are looking to President Barack Obama for leadership.

Obama vowed to take up comprehensive reform early in his administration, but the issue is stalled again. Action now is widely viewed as unlikely until 2011 at the earliest because many members of Congress consider the issue too volatile during an election year.

Staying in the U.S.
Arizona's new law makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It also says that an officer engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest shall, when practicable, ask about a person's legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the United States illegally.

Fearing its implementation, many have already left Arizona. Others are waiting to see if the law survives legal challenges. If it does, many more may leave. But anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of the illegal immigrants leaving Arizona are not returning to Mexico or whichever country they are from. Instead, most are moving to other states.

Luis Sanchez and Marlen Ramirez, undocumented immigrants from Mexico, packed up and moved to Pennsylvania this month, taking their three U.S. citizen children with them. Other families from the same West Valley apartment complex moved to South Carolina and Tennessee.

Sanchez and Ramirez are from the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico. They said that, at first, they thought about returning to Mexico, but their Arizona-born children were adamant about remaining in the United States because they are Americans, not Mexicans.

Sanchez and Ramirez said they also decided against Mexico because of the lack of good-paying jobs there. Sanchez made $9.80 an hour working for a landscaping company in the West Valley, a low wage by American standards but middle-class by Mexican standards. In Pennsylvania, Sanchez is working for his brother, who owns a small landscaping business. He is getting paid more, $10 an hour, but working fewer hours, 28 instead of 40. But he said that the money is still better than what he would earn in Mexico and that he hopes to be working more hours once they can get more lawn jobs.

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