Center for American Progress

Local Immigration Enforcement Costs by the Numbers
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Local Immigration Enforcement Costs by the Numbers

Cities and states are spending millions defending their anti-immigration laws in court.

A Fremont resident votes at a polling station on a proposed municipal ordinance that would ban hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants in Fremont, Nebraska, on June 21, 2010. The city expects to spend $1million a year defending the law. (AP/Dave Weaver)
A Fremont resident votes at a polling station on a proposed municipal ordinance that would ban hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants in Fremont, Nebraska, on June 21, 2010. The city expects to spend $1million a year defending the law. (AP/Dave Weaver)

Beginning in 2006, five communities across the country threw anti-immigration statutes onto their books without fully considering their financial, economic, and social costs. These occurred prior to Arizona’s state law, S.B. 1070, which requires police to question the legal status of suspects when there is "reasonable suspicion" they are undocumented immigrants. The numbers below make clear that these policies are expensive to pursue because they are unconstitutional and therefore wind up being challenged in court. The city ends up spending millions on legal fees, which in turn drains city budgets and leads to tax increases. These laws also depress economies that rely on immigrants as workers and consumers, and they divide communities along racial and ethnic lines.

The real solution for illegal immigration lies in the hands of Congress—not patchwork state or local laws.

$388 million: The amount of economic output Arizona will lose due to lost conferences and business meetings over the next two to three years due to its immigration law, S.B. 1070.

$133 million: The amount of expected lost wages in Arizona over the next two to three years due to its immigration law.

$4 million and rising: The legal fees incurred since 2006 for Farmers Branch, Texas to defend its anti-immigration statute.

$2.8 million: The amount Hazelton, Pennsylvania has spent defending its immigration control ordinance, which was enacted in 2006.

$1.3 million: The amount Prince William County, Virginia has spent to protect itself against lawsuits and enforce its anti-immigration law, which passed in 2007.

$1 million: The amount Fremont, Nebraska expects to defend per year defending its 2010 law.

$82,000: The amount Riverside, New Jersey spent defending its 2006 immigration control ordinance before reversing course.

$6.6 million: Legal fees paid by Arizona, Hazelton, Farmers Branch, and Fremont to anti-immigration attorney Kris Kobach to defend their laws. Kobach drafted many of the cities’ harsh measures himself and then signed up to defend them in court.

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