MANY ILLEGAL ALIENS ARE LEAVING ARIZONA OVER TOUGH NEW IMMIGRATION LAW…
Apr 28, 8:44 PM EDT
Illegal immigrants plan to leave over Arizona law
By AMANDA LEE MYERS
Associated Press Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — Many of the cars that once stopped in the Home Depot parking lot to pick up day laborers to hang drywall or do landscaping now just drive on by.
Arizona’s sweeping immigration bill allows police to arrest illegal immigrant day laborers seeking work on the street or anyone trying to hire them. It won’t take effect until summer but it is already having an effect on the state’s underground economy.
"Nobody wants to pick us up," Julio Loyola Diaz says in Spanish as he and dozens of other men wait under the shade of palo verde trees and lean against a low brick wall outside the east Phoenix home improvement store.
Many day laborers like Diaz say they will leave Arizona because of the law, which also makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and directs police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants.
Supporters of the law hope it creates jobs for thousands of Americans.
"We want to drive day labor away," says Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, one of the law’s sponsors.
An estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants have left Arizona in the past two years as it cracked down on illegal immigration and its economy was especially hard hit by the Great Recession. A Department of Homeland Security report on illegal immigrants estimates Arizona’s illegal immigrant population peaked in 2008 at 560,000, and a year later dipped to 460,000.
The law’s supporters hope the departure of illegal immigrants will help dismantle part of the underground economy here and create jobs for thousands of legal residents in a state with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate.
Kavanagh says day labor is generally off the books, and that deprives the state of much-needed tax dollars. "We’ll never eliminate it, just like laws against street prostitution," he says. "But we can greatly reduce the prevalence."
Day laborers do jobs including construction, landscaping and household work for cash paid under the table. Those jobs have been harder to find since the housing industry collapsed here several years ago.
Standing near potted trees and bushes for sale at a Home Depot in east Phoenix, Diaz, 35, says he may follow three families in his neighborhood who moved to New Mexico because of the law. He says a friend is finding plenty of work in Dallas.
Diaz says he has too much to lose by staying – he’s supporting a wife and infant son back home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas.
"They depend on me to survive," he says. "I’m not going to wait for police to come and arrest me."