The migration response to the Legal Arizona Workers Act

Richard Wright has a new paper in the journal Political Geography.  Working with Mark Ellis, Matt Townley and Kristi Copeland (U Washington), he is interested in the effects of state level legislation on internal migration in the US.  The effects of Jim Crow laws on the exodus of blacks form the US South are well known and well documented.  Wright and colleagues ask: are the immigrant hostile environments in certain US states producing outflows of targeted populations. They focus on The 2008 Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA). LAWA requires all public and private employers to authenticate the legal status of their workers using the federal employment verification system known as E-Verify. With LAWA, Arizona became the first state to have a universal mandate for employment verification. While LAWA targets unauthorized workers, most of whom are Latino immigrants, other groups could experience LAWA's effects, such as those who share households with undocumented workers. In addition, employers may seek to minimize their risk of LAWA penalties by not hiring those who appear to them as more likely to be unauthorized, such as naturalized Latino immigrants and US-born Latinos. They find a significant and sustained increase in the internal outmigration rate from Arizona of foreign-born, noncitizen Latinos -- the group most likely to include the unauthorized — after the passage of LAWA. There was no significant LAWA internal migration response by foreign-born Latino citizens. US-born Latinos showed some signs of a LAWA-induced internal migration response after the law went into effect, but it is not sustained. The results indicate that local and state immigration policy can alter the settlement geography of the foreign born and require us to think about immigrant settlement may adjust in the coming years to the intersecting geographies of post-recession economic opportunity and tiered immigration policies.