Customers Flee Phoenix Out of Fear of Immigration Law

July 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

From Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Phoenix — Every time a customer buys some of the large fabric tote bags from the Dollar Store at 43rd Avenue and Thomas Road, Najmuddin Katchi sees another piece of his business vanish.

The purchase of the briefcase-sized shoulder bags means that another one of Katchi’s customers, mostly Latino immigrants, is packing to leave the state before what is touted as the nation’s toughest law against illegal immigrants takes effect July 29.

Katchi’s store isn’t the only business suffering. The vast shopping center that holds his small shop is almost empty. The Food City supermarket closed this spring. Then the furniture shop. Then the pizzeria.

The giant apartment complex across the street, once brimming with tenants, is two-thirds vacant. Katchi is behind on his rent.

“The business is broken,” said Katchi, who has operated his shop at this intersection for 14 years. “After the 29th of July, what happens? Maybe I have to close the store.”

For the last 20 years, Arizona has been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. It depends on an expanding population to power its economy, which relies heavily on the construction of new houses.

At the corner of 43rd and Thomas, it’s hard to determine how much of the neighborhood’s woes stem from Arizona’s immigration laws and how much from the state’s economy, battered by a once red-hot housing marked that cooled.

Katchi’s revenue was already sagging before April 23, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. Since then, sales have plummeted.

In adopting the legislation the state embarked on a grand experiment — trying to drive out hundreds of thousands of its residents by what the law calls “attrition through enforcement.”

The law requires police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and also suspect are in the country illegally. Civil rights groups and the Obama administration have sued to stop the law from taking effect, and a federal judge heard arguments in the case Thursday.

The departure of illegal immigrants, proponents of SB 1070 argue, can only help Arizona’s economy.

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