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Costs will rein in Arizona's immigration crackdown

Arizona can arrest illegal immigrants now, but then what? Prison and deportation are both too expensive to sustain.

By David R. Francis / August 30, 2010

Arizona rancher David Walker stands at the border wall with Mexico on Aug. 15, in Hereford, Ariz. Walker was attending the United Border Coalition Tea Party Rally in support of Arizona's immigration law, SB1070, along a remote stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border.

Matt York/AP/File


Suppose the US Supreme Court largely upholds Arizona's tough immigration law and, as a result, Arizona police pick up an extra 5,000 or 10,000 unlawful immigrants next year. Then what?

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Arizona could slap illegal aliens with a $100 fine. It could arrest them. Or it could turn them over to federal officials, supposedly to be deported. The latter two options turn out to be expensive.

Around the world, country after country is facing the costly dilemma of what to do with perhaps 50 million illegal, undocumented immigrants collectively. It's a problem for Canada, Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. India tries to limit immigrants from Bangladesh. South Africa has troubles with illegal Zimbabwean immigrants.

Even Mexico has to deal with illegal aliens from Honduras and Guatemala.

Some countries try to obscure the problem. Japan puts black immigrants from Africa, called "trainees," to work at night on construction jobs where they are less visible, says Joseph Chamie, director of the Center for Migration Studies in New York. Other countries ignore the issue. Israel figures that almost half of its 220,000 foreign workers have no work permits.