Arizona Data Unclear Whether Arizona Law Driving Illegal Immigrants out of State

Judson Berger, Fox News, June 11, 2010

If one Phoenix school district is any gauge, Hispanics in Arizona appear to be leaving the state in anticipation of the tough-on-illegal-immigration law that goes into effect at the end of July.

It’s not clear how many of them are illegal immigrants, but the exodus could be evidence that the law is achieving its goal of driving out illegals even before it takes effect next month.

There are no statewide statistics to prove a population shift, and accounts vary as to whether families are so concerned about the law they would pick up and leave.

Still, the superintendent of a Phoenix-area school district told that 95 students have left his system since the law was signed in late April.

Jeffrey Smith, superintendent of the Balsz Elementary School District, said mostly Hispanic students are leaving and that parents have told him they’re leaving out of concern for the new law.


The school district, which is 75 percent Hispanic, is the only district in Arizona where classes are still in session–those schools have a rare 200-day school year, making it the only system where up-to-date comparisons of student enrollment can be made.

Elsewhere, the data was not as clear. The Arizona Republic reported last month that officials at another Phoenix-area district, Alhambra, were anticipating 200 to 300 students would leave their system over the summer because of the law.


Amy Rezzonico, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Education, said the state would not have “tangible evidence” of any population change until October when the schools are required to report their enrollment numbers.


The economy was one of those factors, she said. But some have also pointed to a 2007 law that cracked down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. Department of Homeland Security statistics show that 100,000 illegal immigrants left the state between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009, coinciding with a nationwide drop in illegal populations.


An official with the New Mexico Public Education Department said it was too early to tell whether its enrollment numbers were rising due to an influx from Arizona. School offices for the state of California and the city of Los Angeles also could not speak to whether enrollment was rising.


Though the country’s top immigration enforcement official earlier threatened not to process some of those immigrants, he said Thursday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would continue to accept referrals from Arizona. John Morton said the decision would be made “on a case-by-case basis in light of our resources and in light of our priorities.”


If Hispanics are leaving the state, it will take at least until late 2010 before the trend can be substantiated.


David Leibowitz, spokesman for Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, said because there’s no “exit interview” for people leaving the state it’s tough to tell what impact the law is having. But just as the spate of boycotts against Arizona may drive people suffering from its economic effects to leave, Leibowitz said concerns over the law itself could lead to the same thing. Gordon opposes the law.



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