States Draw Attention to Immigration Issues

Lawmakers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico introduced immigration bills during the first half of 2011, the National Conference of State Legislatures recently reported.

At 1,592, the total number of immigration bills proposed through June 30, 2011, was 16 percent greater than the number of immigration bills introduced during the same period a year ago. However, the number of these bills signed into law, 150, decreased from last year’s total of 208.

Ann Morse, program director for the NCSL Immigration Policy Project, told CNN that states are trying to get the federal government’s attention by proposing so many bills.

The laws that have passed address an array of issues. Alabama, Michigan and Utah were among the states that require sex offenders to produce citizenship documents when enrolling in mandated registries. A number of states, including Indiana, Louisiana and Virginia, now require employers to use the federal E-Verify database to check the immigration status of workers. Thanks to new laws in Maryland and Connecticut, unauthorized immigrant students can apply for in-state tuition.

If the goal was to get the federal government’s attention, the five states that passed strict omnibus immigration policies modeled on Arizona’s controversial SB.1070 succeeded. The U.S. Department of Justice has already filed for an injunction against Alabama’s omnibus law. The DOJ successfully blocked Arizona’s law last year.

The NCSL report was released one day before the August 10 deadline for Arizona to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the injunction against SB.1070.