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The Progressive Movement on Immigration in the States

Legislators from across the country came together in D.C. last week to announce the formation of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, supported by the Progressive States Network's State Immigration Project, to highlight the positive, progressive immigration policies being promoted in states across the country.

Texas Representative Garnet Coleman, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez and Arizona Representative Kyrsten Sinema came together with PSN's Policy Director Nathan Newman, America's Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry and Dan Restrepo of the Center for American Progress Action Fund to emphasize that despite the media focus on anti-immigrant policies, there are many positive steps being taken by states in support of new immigrants.

"The media narrative is almost entirely wrong when it comes to the immigration debate," argued Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice, in ignoring the positive efforts by many state legislators in supporting new immigrants in their communities.  Examples of positive legislation cited by the panel included:

  • Ten states have passed the Dream Act to offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.
  • A dozen plus states have enacted "New Americans" policies to assist new immigrants in learning English and seeking naturalization.
  • Illinois and a number of other states provide health care to tens of thousands of undocumented children. 
  • New York courts, like a number of other states, have granted undocumented workers the full right to sue under state labor laws like worker's compensation.
  • Protecting the availability of drivers licenses for all residents in Maryland, despite efforts to deny them to undocumented immigrants.

In fact, more states have enacted broad-based pro-immigrant laws than have passed the kinds of employer sanction bills that garner so much national attention.

As Texas Representative Garnet Coleman pointed out, most of the anti-immigrant forces and the mainstream media fail to note that "everybody pays for public schools" through property taxes and sales taxes and that "it hurts our economy to deny people the right to work."

This event and the formation of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy emphasizes that political leaders, community groups, labor leaders and other advocates are increasingly working across state lines to strengthen statewide immigration efforts and lay the groundwork for needed comprehensive reform at the federal level. 

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