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Report: Most states rejected SB 1070-style laws in 2011 because of backlash

WASHINGTON – The majority of states that considered immigration bills similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 rejected them in 2011, a testament to the negative effects such laws have on a state’s economy and reputation, a new report claims.

The report, released Tuesday by the National Council of La Raza, said 31 of 36 state legislatures either voted down or failed to advance SB 1070–style bills in 2011.

“The Wrong Approach: State Anti-Immigration Legislation in 2011? attributed the high failure rate to the challenges and scrutiny Arizona faced in the aftermath of the state’s 2010 passage of SB 1070. The law allows local police to check a suspect’s immigration status, among other sweeping measures.

“Elected officials on both sides of the aisle are recognizing the fallout from passing such laws,” said Elena Lacayo, immigration field coordinator for NCLR and author of the report for the national Hispanic–rights advocacy organization.

But supporters of such legislation dismissed the report, pointing instead to the fact that five states adopted SB 1070–type laws last year.

“This isn’t a serious piece of research, it’s a political document,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach of the La Raza report. Kobach co–authored SB 1070 and a similar law in Alabama.

The report fails to acknowledge that legislatures don’t pass most bills, Kobach said. Kansas didn’t pass its version of the legislation because of procedural maneuvers in the Statehouse, not because of a lack of support, he said.

“To draw a conclusion on the fact that a legislature doesn’t pass legislation is nonsensical,” Kobach said. “The polling indicates the laws are as popular as ever.”

Kobach said he was encouraged that five states – Utah, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia – passed such laws in 2011 and said he expects more will do so in 2012.

But the NCLR report said that after Arizona passed SB 1070, it was faced with legal battles – the U.S. Supreme Court is set to review the law this year – economic losses totaling more than $750 million, damage to its reputation and the recall of former state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who became the face of the bill.

Colorado state Sen. Michael Johnston, a Denver Democrat who joined in the release of the report, said he is seeing more Republican support in his state for pro–immigration laws, in part because of the political fallout following SB 1070.

“The first chapter of the debate is always: Is this or is this not good policy?” Johnston said. “This (the report) makes it clear that it’s both bad policy and bad politics.”

But Arizona state Sen. Ron Gould, like Kobach, flatly denied claims that there have been negative consequences to the state because of SB 1070. The bill demonstrated Arizona’s commitment to protecting its borders, a responsibility the federal government has failed to address, Gould said.

“Arizona leads the nation on the fight on illegal immigration,” said Gould, a Lake Havasu Republican. “I think that 1070 had a positive effect on states across the United States.”

Both Gould and Kobach said the Pearce recall was an “anomaly” that is unlikely to be duplicated because of the unique circumstances that allowed it to occur.

Lacayo said the record of SB 1070–style legislation speaks for itself, but she expects some states will consider similar legislation in 2012, despite ramifications and strong resistance from voters and businesses.

“At the beginning of the (2011) legislative session, people like Kris Kobach were saying they were going to advance these bills,” Lacayo said. “Despite all of that hype around that and all they were attempting to do, they did fail quite a bit.”

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