100,000 Latinos left Arizona this year, report says

Liz Goodwin

Even though the federal courts have struck down major portions of Arizona's anti-illegal-immigration law, the measure--known as SB1070--appears to be having one big effect: driving Hispanic residents out of the state.

About 100,000 Latinos have left this year, estimates a new study from BBVA Research that uses data from the U.S. Current Population Survey.

Mexico estimates about 23,380 of its citizens moved home from Arizona this year. The remaining tens of thousands of Latinos could have moved to other states within the United States, but the study's authors say they don't have enough evidence to make that determination. They also don't know how many of the 100,000 were immigrants, legal or illegal.

Still, the researchers think SB1070 explains the exodus. In August, state Sen. Russell Pearce wrote an op-ed hailing reports that illegal immigrants were fleeing the state because of the law. "This is the strategy of SB 1070: attrition through enforcement," he wrote. "Arizona has made it clear through our policies that illegal immigrants are not welcome, and they are self-deporting from the state."

Gov. Jan Brewer's spokesman Paul Senseman tells The Upshot he thinks it's too early to know if SB1070 is causing illegal immigrants to leave the state. But, "the goal of SB 1070 is to prevent and discourage illegal immigration activity in Arizona," he said.

The report's authors say that the loss of immigrants, legal and illegal, will harm Arizona's economy. The authors estimate that immigrants produce about 12 percent of the GDP in the state. Immigrants also tend to take on different types of jobs than native workers in Arizona, and they pay taxes, indirectly and directly. In 2004, the BBVA study says, naturalized citizens paid $460 million in taxes, and non-naturalized immigrants paid $320 million. In total, non-naturalized immigrants contributed $29 billion to the state's economy in 2004, the study estimates.

About 1.27 million of Arizona's residents in 2009 were of Mexican origins, about 45 percent of them Mexican-born, the study says. About three-quarters of those Mexican-born residents are not naturalized citizens, it says. It's likely that many non-naturalized immigrants are illegal residents.

Total legal and illegal immigration to the United States dropped significantly starting in 2007, the study also reports.

Overstaying a visa--the way that about 40 percent of the country's 11 million illegal immigrants remain in the country, based on a 2006 estimate--is a civil violation, not a criminal offense. Entering the country illegally is a misdemeanor.

(Photo of a mother and daughter from Phoenix celebrating a judge's July decision to block parts of SB1070: AP)