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Study: Arizona law mandating E-Verify deters undocumented immigrants


PHOENIX — An Arizona law requiring employers to verify that new hires are authorized to work in the United States is deterring undocumented immigrants from coming and staying in the state, a new study finds.

“We find that an Arizona law reducing employment opportunities for unauthorized migrants decreased emigration from and increased return migration to Mexican source regions with strong initial ties to Arizona,” authors of the study stated.

The study was conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Colorado-Boulder.

It examines the impact of the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which took effect January 2008. It requires employers in Arizona to use E-Verify, an online system by the federal government that’s used to verify a worker’s identity and authorization to work in the U.S.

The law also imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers, including suspending business licenses for the first offense and revoking business licenses for the second offense.

Brian Cadena, associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Boulder, co-authored the study. He said previous research had shown state-level employment restriction laws, like the one in Arizona, reduced the size of a state’s unauthorized immigrant population.

“We didn’t know if that was because people were going back to Mexico or choosing not to come to the United States from Mexico,” he said.

Cadena said they used data from a Mexican identification-card program to analyze geographic migration patterns. They found the rate of immigrants returning to Mexico nearly quadrupled from 2005 to 2010, around the same time E-Verify was mandated.

The increases were even larger for Mexican states with strong connections to Arizona than states with weaker connections. The state of Sonora, for example, saw a 30 percent larger growth in the number of migrants returning compared to a state in Mexico with no connection to Arizona.

Cadena said these findings show E-Verify is “a more cost-effective” way to reduce the unauthorized immigrant population than building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Constructing a wall would cost more than $20 billion whereas implementing E-verify for all employers would cost just over $1 billion,” he said.

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