Linda Chavez

Arizona has been ground zero in the fight against illegal immigration -- but a funny thing happened this week when a new anti-illegal alien state law went into effect. Nothing.

The law, one of the toughest in the nation, requires jurisdictions to investigate complaints by ordinary citizens against local businesses that may be employing illegal aliens. But apparently most Arizonans have better things to worry about. A spokesman for the state attorney general said his office had received about a half dozen calls. Some jurisdictions, including Pima County, which runs along the border with Mexico, received no complaints. It's not exactly what you'd expect if Arizonans were chomping at the bit to run illegal aliens out of the state and punish their employers.

A new study out by the conservative think tank Americas Majority Foundation (www.amermaj.com) suggests a possible explanation why more Arizonans aren't rushing to run off illegal workers. It turns out Arizonans may be better off -- not worse -- because of the presence of so many immigrants in the population.

This sounds counterintuitive, at least if you believe current political rhetoric and tendentious research by anti-immigrant groups like the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. But the Americas Majority Foundation data are pretty persuasive. States with the highest percentage of immigrants or the largest recent influx of immigrants --19 High Immigrant Jurisdictions (HIJs) in all -- are wealthier, have better employment numbers and most have better crime figures than those with fewer immigrants.

In Arizona, for example, personal income is higher, as is the gross state product, the measure of all economic activity in the state. Unemployment is lower, as is household poverty. And crime is lower than both the national average and the average among states with fewer immigrants.

And, the trends for HIJs are every bit as good as the absolute numbers. Not only are GSP, personal income, per capita personal income, disposable income, per capita disposable income, median household income and per capita median personal income higher than in other states, but they have been growing at faster rates between 1999 and 2006 than in other states.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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