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Implementation Costs of SB 1070 to One Arizona County

Estimates Indicate Costs Could Rise into the Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Entire State

Released on Fri, Apr 23, 2010

Washington D.C. - Today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer may sign into law a bill that has the potential to sink her state much deeper into the red than it already is. Touting a $10 million investment into local law enforcement from discretionary federal stimulus money the state received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Governor Brewer is gambling with Arizona's economy. The costs associated with SB 1070 have not been quantified by the Arizona legislature but it is safe to assume that $10 million dollars is only a drop in the bucket towards what it would actually cost to enforce this law. 

In Arizona, when a bill is introduced in the state legislature, a "fiscal note" is attached which lays out the cost of implementation. In the case of SB 1070, the accompanying fiscal note is shockingly lacking in detail, concluding that "the fiscal impact of this bill cannot be determined with certainty. We do not have a means to quantify the number of individuals arrested under the bill's provisions or the impact on the level of illegal immigration." At a time when Arizona is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, however, enacting an enforcement program that will surely run into the hundreds of millions of dollars is fiscally irresponsible at best.

In the absence of any current fiscal data on the cost of SB 1070's implementation, some Arizonans are pointing to a fact sheet produced by Yuma County Sheriff Ralph E. Ogden in response to similar legislation proposed in 2006. Yuma County is one of Arizona's 15 counties, with a population of about 200,000.

The 2006 fact sheet estimates the costs of a bill which would have authorized the police to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges if they were simply present in the state (the bill was eventually vetoed by then Governor Janet Napolitano).  The Yuma County Sherriff's fact sheet shows a staggering potential cost to Yuma County law-enforcement agencies. The Sherriff estimated:

  • Law-enforcement agencies would spend between $775,880 and $1,163,820 in processing expenses;
  • Jail costs would be between $21,195,600 and $96,086,720;
  • Attorney and staff fees would be $810,067-$1,620,134;
  • Additional detention facilities would have to be built at unknown costs.

Furthermore, in an email between Yuma County Attorney Jon Smith and Arizona lawmakers, Smith added that there would be even more costs to implementing SB 1070 than just what Ogden had outlined, and noted that his county was already struggling with a budget deficit by furloughing employees and forcing days off without pay. He wrote:

"It was also noted that the Superior Court, Justice Courts and Municipal Courts would also realize increased costs if that legislation passed. Although such increases were not calculated, it was and should be noted that such would include additional court staff, interpreters, administrative staff and pre-trial services. In a percentage of those cases, Juvenile Court and the juvenile detention facility would have also recognized cost increases...An increase of this proportion would stifle all areas of the system, from the moment of arrest to the point of conviction, sentencing and incarceration.  Already LEA (law enforcement agencies) are fighting to stay afloat through the use of furloughs, and mandated days off with pay.  I really doubt the fines and fees assessed will be able to match the need and cost associated."

The Yuma county snapshot of enforcement costs is a sobering reminder of the overwhelming financial harm that SB 1070 could cause the state of Arizona.  Ultimately, those costs are only part of the story and don't even account for lost revenue such as tax contributions and consumer purchasing, as well as the potentially expensive lawsuits that will likely ensue if this law if it is signed by the Governor.

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