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Economic report outlines who is impacted by the costs of immigration arrests

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Irfan Khan | The Daily Wildcat

 A recent report lead by two UA researchers found that arrests of immigrants has a negative impact on American communities, citizens ad the economy. The report was published thoguh the UA's Binational Migration Institute.  

Immigrant arrests are taking a toll on both U.S. citizens and the economy, according to an economic report called “The Immigration Dragnet and the Dispossession of Household and Community Wealth in the United States.” 

The report was published in October by Sarah Launius and Geoffrey Alan Boyce through the University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute and explores the economic impact that immigration arrests have on immigrant families and the overall community.

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Boyce, co-author of the report and visiting researcher in the Mexican American studies department, said that he and Launius were assisted by 14 undergraduate research assistants from the UA and Pima Community College.

According to Boyce, they used a snowball sampling methodology to get the data they needed for the report.

“It essentially means a word-of-mouth sampling methodology,” Boyce said. “Starting at a particular site where we know we have access to the research population, the folks we want to talk to relates to the study, relying on them to refer to additional people and their social network who qualify for the study to us and then relying then on those people for additional contacts and so on.”

According to Boyce, they asked qualified people a survey of 110 questions. The researchers asked about household demographics, finances, immigration history and the overall impact that an immigration arrest can have on a family. 

Boyce said there are two important implications that came out of their research.

According to Boyce, the first implication is that once all the data was collected and put together, it was found that a majority of the people that have had family members arrested by immigration are U.S. citizens.

Boyce said 62% of people who participated in the survey were U.S. citizens and 11% were lawful permanent residents.

“So the significant majority of the people being impacted are citizens or people who are perfectly lawfully present in terms of immigration status,” Boyce said. “This reflects the ways that we already know a majority of … non-citizens but also undocumented people live in mixed-status families.”

According to Boyce, the second important implication of the report is that through the data they collected, the researchers found that the hundreds of immigration arrests happening in Tucson are costing the community.

“So, just within our sample alone of 125 households and 200-some immigration arrests within those households, we can measure millions of dollars being pumped out of the local economy,” Boyce said. “So that means ultimately, even though it’s these families that are experiencing the brunt of financial burden that we’re looking at, it’s ultimately impacting everybody in the community.”

Boyce said the money generated from immigration arrests is not going back to the community and is instead going to attorneys, private detention centers and companies that contract with detention centers, such as phone companies and suppliers for the commissaries.

According to Boyce, they conducted this research because there had never been a study of this kind before. He said there has been isolated research of the cost of detention but never a study of the effects that immigration arrests have on the economic health of families and households.

“It’s often times when someone’s family member is detained, these financial questions nevertheless are urgent ones they’re confronting,” Boyce said. “Whether that’s getting someone bonded out of detention so they can be released for the duration of their case at least, remain with their family, or just covering routine household expenses because a primary breadwinner is no longer able to work.”

Boyce said the reason they released the report was so the communities affected by the problem of immigration arrests would have free access to the data and not need a CatCard or library subscription to see the report.

“These journals charge thousands and thousands for access, so it was really important as we were collecting this data from the community to also share it in a way that people can access,” Boyce said.

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Boyce also said he learned a lot in his time of the value of working with undergraduate researchers.

“My experience working with undergraduate students to do the research was really rewarding,” Boyce said. “I think it’s a testament to … [how] our research can have multiple benefits not only in the data we were able to collect but also in the opportunities that we can create for students along the way.”


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