Leader of Latin American group blasts immigration proposal

Letter to Butler County sheriff cites economic impact.

HAMILTON — While officials, state and national lawmakers and citizens line up on either side the immigration reform debate, the leader League of United Latin American Citizens of Ohio has sent a strong message to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones who is vowing to take a Arizona-like immigration law to the ballot.

A week after Jones gathered national media attention stating he and state Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton, called for legislation that “mirrors” the controversial Arizona law that makes being in the country illegally a state violation, Jason Riveiro, state director of the LULAC, sent a letter to the sheriff stating his support of the Arizona law “can only be described as a cynical and self-serving political ploy. Such actions are inappropriate. You take advantage of not merely immigrant populations, but also of the trust granted you by the very people who elected you into office.

“These actions disgrace the integrity of the office and of the position you hold as a leader in your community. You show blatant disregard for the health, well-being and long term economic stability of not only your community, but of the entire state of Ohio.”

Riveiro’s strongly rebuke of Jones’ support of a copycat anti-immigration legislation focused on the effect the bill would have on Ohio economics.

A bill of this type would be detrimental to already struggling local economies throughout Ohio. As a supporter of small business, you know that enterprise does not thrive while markets are shackled by conflict and controversy, Riveiro said in the letter.

“Additionally, anti-immigration legislation negatively affects local housing markets. Immigrants and their families purchase and lease homes. When people leave, properties are left vacant. Vacant houses lower the values of other homes in neighborhoods. Less property tax can be gained from communities in decline than from vibrant and growing neighborhoods. Local tax revenues from sales and pay roll will also disappear because the very immigrants you seek to eliminate from local economic markets also generate those taxes,” he said. “In 2008, the purchasing power of Ohio’s Latinos alone totaled $6.1 billion (Immigration Policy Center 2009). It is a fact that most immigrants shop in non-immigrant owned businesses. These small businesses generate jobs and should these businesses go under, this worsens the already precipitous jobless rates here in Ohio — not just for immigrants, but for traditional, native-born residents as well. In all, this bill stands to cost Ohio residents “$4.0 billion in expenditures, $1.8 billion in economic output, and approximately 25,019 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time.”

Riverio wrote, “LULAC calls on these efforts to be rescinded and your attempts to pass anti-immigrant legislation in Ohio to end. Work with our communities to find an economically robust and socially responsible path forward for Ohio as regards the immigrant question.”

It may come as a surprise to Jones that LULAC acknowledges immigration reform is needed, but change must include consideration for those already in this country.

“We do agree there is a problem, we need new legislation, but it can not only address enforcement,” Riveiro said.

Jones said the letter contain many of the arguments he has heard in the past when he has taken a strong stance on immigration and testified about the need for reform.

“LULAC has a different philosophy than mine and many citizens in the state. They mean well. I guess will have to agree to disagree,” the sheriff said.

Jones said he as been contacted by group willing to help gather the 400,000 signatures need to get the citizens initiative on the ballot soon.

“It may not be this year, but I would be shocked if it is not on the ballot in 2011,” Jones said. “We will see want the voters have to say.”

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