Tuesday, January 21, 2014
State Immigration Legislation Increases in 2013, More Pro-Immigrant than Pro-Immigration Enforcement
The number of immigration laws states passed in 2013 increased significantly over 2012, with 437 laws and resolutions adopted, according to a new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. This represented a 64 percent increase compared with the 267 laws and resolutions enacted in 2012.
State legislatures seemed to take a “wait and see” attitude in 2012 pending the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s SB 1070. That ruling struck down three of four immigration enforcement provisions. Also in 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security implemented new policy (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that provided young unauthorized immigrants a temporary respite from deportation and authorization to work. These two federal actions appear to have shifted the immigration landscape in the states, from omnibus immigration enforcement bills to legislation expanding eligibility for some state benefits.
The report summarizes laws and resolutions enacted during 2013 on legal immigrants, migrant and seasonal workers, refugees and unauthorized immigrants. According to the report, 10 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont—joined New Mexico, Utah and Washington in extending driver’s license eligibility to unauthorized residents. Four states—Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon—expanded in-state tuition for unauthorized immigrant students, bringing the number of states that currently offer in-state tuition through legislation to 15.
“We are still waiting for the federal government to fix the immigration system,” said State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Wash.), co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States. “States are doing the best we can with the tools we have available to us. State legislators face fiscal challenges in education, health and law enforcement. To do nothing is not an option.” State Senator John Watkins (R-Va.), co-chair NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States, echoed the call for action. “The immigration issue is not going away,” he said. “The federal government needs to address immigration reform and consider the fiscal impacts on states. Without a national solution, state lawmakers will continue debating policy and forming local responses to address needs within their states.”
Since 2005, NCSL has been reporting on state immigration laws and resolutions.