The Post editorial page weighs in on the new AZ immigration law

The Washington Post editorial page weighs in on a subject we've been tracking here at NDN - the new Arizona anti-immigrant laws that take effect next week. An excerpt:

THE NEW ground zero in the debate over illegal immigration is Arizona, where the nation's toughest and potentially most far-reaching crackdown on undocumented workers and their employers is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The Arizona law, passed resoundingly by the state legislature after Congress failed to enact immigration reform last summer, penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants by suspending their business licenses for up to 10 days; ; on a second offense, the business license would be revoked -- what Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has called a corporate "death penalty." Thus the Arizona law may become a test case for how much pain a state is willing to endure, and inflict, in the name of ridding itself of a population that contributes enormously to its economic growth and prosperity.

Illegal immigrants have flocked to Arizona for years to fill jobs that native-born people don't want. While the state's unemployment rate remains low, undocumented employees comprise an estimated 9 to 12 percent of the state's 3 million workers. Companies in agriculture, construction and service industries rely heavily on illegal immigrants, and any successful attempt to drive them out will have economic repercussions that may be severe.

In construction alone, Judith Gans of the University of Arizona has estimated that a 15 percent cut in the state's immigrant workforce would result in direct losses of about 56,000 jobs and some $6.6 billion in economic output. The direct loss to state tax revenue would be approximately $270 million. The study, and others like it, including in Texas, refute the arguments that illegal immigrants are an overall burden on state economies because of the education, health care and other services they require; in fact they contribute heavily to economic growth.

The Arizona law illustrates the self-defeating hazard of addressing one part of the problem -- enforcement -- without also recognizing the plain reality of America's need for immigrant labor...

In responding with this law to the popular anger and anxiety about illegal immigration, Arizona may have been within its legal rights; the courts will decide that shortly. But the price the law will exact is likely to be severe -- to the state's economy, to thousands of immigrant families and, very likely, to the civil rights of legal Hispanic residents who will come under unwarranted suspicion. Those costs may cause Arizonans to question the prudence of their state lawmakers and highlight the folly of Washington's failure to come to grips with illegal immigration.