Record Year So Far for State Immigration Legislation
Print Friendly and PDF


Washington remains worse than useless on immigration enforcement, but fortunately the states have moved to pick up the slack, as indicated by a report showing that the number of state bills is increasing, and some are even signed into law.

Given federal fecklessness and state leadership, Rep. Lamar Smith’s proposal for national e-verify that would eliminate the ability of states to enforce immigration law - the pricetag of the business community for its support of the Smith bill - would be a disastrous choice. The Smith bill would be another stealth amnesty like the 1986 law that promised enforcement which never happened in exchange for rewarding millions of lawbreakers with US citizenship. All carrot, no stick. It appears that bad history may be repeated once again.

See also Virgil Goode: Flawed E-verify Undermines State Enforcement and Kobach Doubts Good Intentions from Chamber of Commerce.

States are doing the job that Washington won’t, so the friends of law and borders should support states that are defending national security and public safety.

States introduced record number of immigration bills this year, Bellingham Herald, By STEPHEN CEASAR / Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2011

LOS ANGELES - State lawmakers considered a record number of immigration-related bills this year, highlighting their continued frustration with federal government inaction on immigration laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A total of 1,592 bills were introduced in all 50 states and Puerto Rico in the 2011 legislative session that ended June 30, a report by the bipartisan research organization found.

State legislators in 40 states enacted 151 of the bills, which mainly addressed law enforcement, identification and employment issues, said Ann Morse, program director of the conference’s immigrant policy project. An additional five laws were vetoed by governors.

Five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah - created laws similar to a controversial Arizona immigration law, known as SB 1070, which requires law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and whom they suspect to be in the country illegally.

All five of those laws been challenged in federal court, with opponents citing federal pre-emption and violation of the Fourth and 14th amendments. 

“The level of interest in the states is still very high,” Morse said. “What we’re seeing is a frustration with the federal government that it won’t take up these issues.”

An uptick in states’ legislation began in 2005, when 300 bills were introduced and 38 laws were enacted, Morse said.

At that time, states focused primarily on social services and naturalization issues, areas lawmakers believed the federal government was failing to address. But as frustrations with the federal government began to rise, so did the amount of legislation that was introduced, Morse said.

President Barack Obama has said that his administration is continuing its efforts to overhaul the immigration system, but Republicans have become unwilling partners.

While running for office in 2008, Obama said that he would deal with immigration reform in his first year. After the health care overhaul received top priority, it became increasingly less likely that he will be able to pass a bill until after the 2012 election.

By 2007, over 1,500 states’ bills were introduced and 240 bills were signed into law. The high numbers have held relatively steady ever since.

Today, lawmakers address “virtually everything you can think of,” Morse said.

Ten states passed legislation requiring employers to use E-Verify, an online program that uses federal databases to check whether employees are in the country legally and authorized to work.

New laws in Maryland and Connecticut will allow illegal immigrants to be eligible for in-state tuition. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the DREAM Act, easing access to privately funded financial aid for undocumented college students.

Six states - Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Utah - passed laws requiring that sex offender registries include a requirement of proof of citizenship or immigration documents.

“It’s a push and pull between what the federal government does or doesn’t do and what the states end up doing themselves,” Morse said.

Below is a relevant snip from the National Conference of State Legislatures of the original material:

2011 Immigration-Related Laws and Resolutions in the States (January-June), August 9, 2011

2011 Immigration-Related Laws and Resolutions in the States (January-June)

Chart of 2011 Enacted Immigration-Related Laws and Resolutions  States

In the first half of 2011, state legislators introduced 1,592 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The number of bill introductions is an increase of 16 percent compared to the first half of 2010, when 46 states considered 1,374 bills and resolutions pertaining to immigrants.

As of June 30, 2011, 40 state legislatures enacted 151 laws and adopted 95 resolutions for a total of 246.  Twelve additional bills passed but were vetoed by governors.  For the same period in 2010, 44 state legislatures passed 191 laws and adopted 128 resolutions, for a total of 314. An additional five bills were vetoed. The 2011 total of laws and resolutions is a decrease of 22 percent. As of June 30, an additional 10 bills were pending governors’ approval - these bills are not included in this report of enacted laws.  For the same period in 2010, [missing text in original].

As in previous years, law enforcement, identification/driver’s licenses and employment remained the top issues addressed in state legislation related to immigrants. Several states - Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Utah - enacted sex offender registries that include a requirement of proof of citizenship or immigration documents. Montana required that the DMV use the SAVE program to verify a driver’s license or an ID applicant’s lawful presence. E-Verify legislation was enacted in 9 states: Alabama,  Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. Florida added an E-Verify requirement by executive order.  Eighteen states now have an E-Verify requirement.

Five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana South Carolina and Utah - crafted omnibus laws following the example of Arizona’s SB.1070. The legislation includes provisions that require law enforcement to attempt to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful stop; allowing state residents to sue state and local agencies for noncompliance with immigration enforcement; requiring E-Verify; and making it a state violation for failure to carry an alien registration document.  Alabama’s HB.56 requires schools to verify students’ immigration status.   Court challenges based on preemption and civil rights have been filed against the Alabama, Georgia, and Indiana laws and Utah’s HB497.

Print Friendly and PDF