Although SB1070, the Arizona law that requires state and local police to determine the immigration status of those who have been arrested or detained, caused the state to lose at least $10 million in meetings and tourism revenues since its introduction last summer, 15 other states are considering similar measures.
Among the states eyeing legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration by similar means are California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Mississippi's adoption of such a measure is imminent: Legislators passed a law very similar to Arizona's on Jan. 28; at press time, the bill was awaiting Gov. Haley Barbour's signature.
Also at press time, the Indiana State Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill for a similar immigration policy; the full state senate was expected to vote on the bill by the end of last month.
The question now is how these states' tourism and meeting business will be affected by such measures.
In Indiana, the issue is especially sensitive: The Indiana Convention Center just unveiled an expansion that doubled its exhibit space, to 566,600 square feet, and last month, the largest JW Marriott in the world opened here, with 1,005 guest rooms and 54 meeting rooms.
A spokesperson for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Authority told M&C, "We are committed to ensuring that the city continues to attract conventions and leisure tourists. As a destination, we are currently researching this bill's potential impact on the health of our tourism community as a whole."
Other officials have been more vocal in their concern. Roland Dorson, president of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, told the Indianapolis Star that the potential economic impact should not be discounted.
"Even beyond that," he said, "we don't want to become Arizona, where there is empirical evidence that they have suffered from passage of that law…We don't want to hang out a shingle that says, ‘No entry.' This is two steps backward."
The Arizona law's fate, following a suit filed by the Justice Department, is being decided in the U.S. Court for Appeals. One Arizona tourism official told M&C that convention business in Phoenix still is off by 30 percent.
Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, said she has heard from colleagues from other state hotel and lodging associations who are preparing for an onslaught of cancellations, in case the proposed laws are enacted.
"I've shared what we've done and given them some of the talking points that we have used so they don't have to re-create the wheel," Johnson told M&C.