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Immigration law has cost Arizona millions: study

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WASHINGTON — In the four months since Arizona passed a harsh immigration law the southwestern state has lost an estimated $141 million in visitor spending, a study said Thursday.

Meetings and conferences canceled in protest at what critics considered draconian, anti-immigrant measures would also cost the state nearly 2,800 jobs over the next two to three years, The Center for American Progress (CAP) said in its report.

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It said the job losses would trigger over a quarter billion dollars in lost economic output and more than 86 million in lost wages.

The Arizona law, which took effect in July, makes it a crime to be in the state, which borders Mexico, without proper immigration papers.

It also requires local police, who are not federal agents responsible for immigration matters, to determine whether people are in the country legally. Many critics charge that will fuel ethnic profiling.

Arizona’s Hotel and Lodging Association has already reported an overall loss of $15 million in lodging revenues linked to meeting cancellations since the measure’s passage.

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But the CAP calculated that actual lodging revenue losses due to these cancellations were three times higher — 45 million dollars. The think-tank then analyzed average food and beverage, entertainment, in-town transportation and retail sales to come up with their larger estimate.

“This significant hit to direct visitor spending could not come at a worse economic time for Arizona and yet these numbers still vastly understate the overall consequences of these cancellations for the state’s economy,” CAP said in a summary, noting the state also stands to lose significant tax revenue.

“But the economic and fiscal consequences don?t stop there. It is highly likely that decisions not to book conventions in Arizona will continue for some time.”

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It noted that bookings made through the state’s Convention and Visitors Bureau were down 35 percent in July and August from the same period last year.

The report serves as a warning of the “potentially catastrophic impacts of pursuing harsh, state-based immigration policies and should give other state legislatures pause before pursuing such measures,” the center added.

The US government has filed a suit against Arizona in a bid to block the disputed law slammed by President Barack Obama’s administration as abusive and divisive.

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