Friday, October 29, 2010

Immigration Law Economics

If you didn’t catch NPR’s story yesterday on the route the Arizona immigration law took, then check it out here.

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

“The gentleman that’s the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger,” Nichols said. “He’s a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman.”

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

“They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community,” Nichols said, “the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate.”

But Nichols wasn’t buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

“They talked like they didn’t have any doubt they could fill it,” Nichols said.

That’s because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law.

The law is being challenged by the federal government on the basis that it is not the job of the states to write and enforce immigration laws. Whether or not that challenge succeeds has yet to be determined, but somehow, some way, the law ought to be tossed on the basis that there’s just something stinko about about a company that comes in and writes a law that is specifically designed for their own fun and profit. It may be perfectly legal, but that doesn’t make it right, and it sure makes the legislature and the governor of the state look like they’ve been bought and paid for.