As Florida legislators discuss two Republican-proposed bills that mimic Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law, a new study looks at the costs for five communities that enacted immigration enforcement ordinances.

The report, published by the Center for American Progress, looks at the legal and economic consequences for these communities where “anti-immigrant and sometimes racist sentiments were fueled by right-wing politicians, extremist organizations, and conservative commentators who attacked all immigrants.”

The study summarizes the cases:

  • Hazleton, Penn., the leader of the court fights for local immigration enforcement, is in the tank for at least $2.8 million with some estimates totaling $5 million as it defends its ordinance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Riverside, N.J., suffered a local economic downturn before the city rescinded its anti-immigrant ordinance and welcomed the return of immigrants.
  • Farmers Branch, Texas, has spent nearly $4 million in legal fees and is expected to spend at least $5 million to defend its anti-immigration statute with no end in sight.
  • Prince William County, Va., dramatically scaled back a tough immigration statute after realizing the original version would cost millions to enforce and defend in court.
  • Fremont, Neb., increased the city’s property tax to help pay the legal fees for its anti-immigration ordinance, which it intends to defend.

Attorney Kris Kobach — elected Kansas secretary of state in November and linked to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which supports attrition through enforcement and helped draft Arizona’s S.B. 1070 — represented Hazelton, Penn., during the legal battle to defend the town’s immigration enforcement ordinances. The immigration laws were struck down in July 2007 and September 2010.

The report also links Kobach to the legal battles in Farmers Branch, Texas and Fremont, Neb.

Farmers Branch faced four separate lawsuits: “In January 2007, after a court temporarily blocked implementation of the Farmers Branch law pending the outcome of the lawsuits, the city council repealed the original rental law and replaced it with a similar one drafted by Kobach that made adjustments for families of mixed immigration or citizenship status.”

Voters approved that ordinance in a May 2007 election, but it was declared unconstitutional a year later by a federal court. Kobach authored yet another ordinance that was struck down in April 2010.

The report concludes:

The real solution is in the hands of Congress. As Chief Deane told the Prince William County board, “Illegal immigration is a national challenge that can best be solved with national strategies. Local police involvement with immigration enforcement should be aggressive, yet balanced and focused on the worst of the worst.” He’s right. Congress needs to listen.

The Florida Independent reported on Monday that Mark Schlakman of the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University,  who spoke during the state Senate’s second fact-finding meeting,  supported the idea of state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, “that state legislators meet with members of the state’s congressional delegation to press for action at the national level.”

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