States Passing Fewer Immigration Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to repeal parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law has caused a significant drop in the number of related bills proposed by state lawmakers in the first half of 2012, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

“States took a bit of a pause on the issue of immigration as they waited for the Supreme Court to rule,” said Virginia state Senator John Watkins. “The ruling we got is a yellow light, in that states can move forward in some areas but not others.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has noted a 20 percent decline in the number of proposals during the first half of 2012, when measured against the same time period in 2011. Forty-one states created 114 bills and adopted 92 motions regarding immigrants and refugees, compared with 1,592 bills in 2011, Reuters reported.

The waiting period also allowed other political activity to take precedence.

“Legislators found that state budget gaps and redistricting maps took priority, consuming much of the legislative schedule,” a report by the NCSL’s Immigration Policy Project said. “Perhaps more significant, state lawmakers cited pending litigation on states’ authority to enforce immigration laws as further reason to postpone action.”

Experts said the fall presidential election may not strongly affect how states proceed with immigration legislation in the future.

“Whoever is elected president will need to work with both parties in Congress and address the issue,” said Washington State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos. “The can has been kicked down the road for too long, and states have suffered as a result. Come January, action at the federal level needs to happen.”

State governments were drafting their own bills after a lack of activity at the national level, and hope to see a shift back to federal government responsibility in the near future.