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Immigration-Related Bills to Move in 2011 State Legislative Sessions

Progressive StatesAction's Immigration-related work falls into a few key categories:

Wage Enforcement and Workers' Rights:

  • Wage enforcement legislation cracks down on unscrupulous employers violating wage and hour protections rather than targeting undocumented immigrant workers.  This has been an effective approach to deflect anti-immigrant legislation and attacks on newcomers while upholding the rights of all workers.  Progressive States Network has developed comprehensive wage enforcement model legislation to address the multiple ways the rights of workers (many of them undocumented immigrants) are often violated by employers and corporations that prey on immigrants' lack of legal status to increase profits and bypass workplace safety regulations.  For model legislation, click here.

  • Extending Workers Compensation to the Undocumented: State Rep Rashida Tlaib (MI) introduced legislation in 2010, HB 5952, which allows undocumented workers to file workers compensation claims -- critical because undocumented workers often perform jobs in hazardous and poorly-regulated industries such as construction, meatpacking, poultry, and general contracting.  This legislation does not increase costs for state Departments of Labor, and forces unscrupulous employers to be responsible for workplace injuries. 

Immigrant Integration:

  • Provide Tuition Equity for Undocumented College Students:  As the federal DREAM Act continues to languish in Congress, it is even more critical that states pass legislation to extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrant student residents.  Ten states have already done so, and California's AB 540 is an excellent example. One of the first tuition equity laws enacted in the country, the law was recently reaffirmed by a unanimous California Supreme Court opinion in 2010. By allowing all students who have attended state schools for at least three years and graduated from a state high school, California's model expands educational access for immigrant students and their families (as well as other youth) by making higher education more affordable. It also allows the state to maximize its investment in young people by encouraging them to stay in the state and eventually leverage their education to help power the state's economy into the future. . 

  • Enact legislation and policies that support and encourage community colleges to meet the English and workforce development needs of immigrant students and residents.  Community colleges increasingly serve as vehicles to integrate immigrants and prepare them to contribute to their communities and economies as workers.  State legislation can provide critical support to continue and expand this approach.   Examples include Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) programs-often brokered through community colleges-that combine traditional English language instruction classes with terminology and vocabulary tailored to the workforce needs of local industries and companies.  Research has shown English proficiency significantly increases the earnings of low-wage immigrant workers as they are able to communicate more effectively with employers and clients and advocate for themselves in the workplace.  In addition, VESL program graduates' job placement rates are often significantly higher as immigrant workers are funneled into industries hungry for employees.

Community Policing:

Community policinglegislation bars state and local police officers from inquiring aboutresidents' immigration status when they are not suspects in acriminal investigation. Law enforcement professionals, including theMetropolitan Association of Chiefs of Police and the Law EnforcementEngagement Initiative, agree that burdening police officers andsheriff's deputies with enforcing immigration laws diminishes theirability to find and prosecute serious criminals such as drugtraffickers and gang members - endeavors that depend upon policeofficers developing trust with local residents.  Communitypolicing legislation allows law enforcement professionals to focus onkeeping communities safe from violent criminals and ensuresimmigration enforcement remains the responsibility of federalagencies whose employees have received appropriate training on ournation's complex immigration laws. 

  • State Senator Daylin Leach (PA) introduced S 1401 in 2010, legislation that bars state and local law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration laws and seeks to limit racial profiling by police officers and sheriff's deputies based upon an individual's immigration status. 

  • State Senator Eric Griego (NM) has already developed two community policing model bills that, respectively:

    • Bar state law enforcement personnel from asking for individuals' immigration status when they are not suspected of a crime (online version);

    • Update the state's Prohibition of Profiling Practices Act to underline how it is in the interest of law enforcement officers to foster trust and cooperate with many communities, including immigrants (online version);

Support Women & Minority Entrepreneurs as Potential Engines of Economic Growth and Job Creation:

This legislationseeks to support small-scale local entrepreneurs, who are three timesas likely to be foreign-born, to establish businesses in theircommunities.  These business owners in turn create economicgrowth, and often jobs, in their local communities - many of whichare desperate for jobs and much-needed state and local tax revenue. Legislation to connect small business incubators with potentialsmall-scale entrepreneurs (particularly those who are foreign-born)can help bolster state and local economies and allow immigrants tocontinue revitalizing town centers and downtown areas.

  • Assemblymember Upendra Chivukula (NJ) previously introduced A 920, an example of legislation to support women and minority-owned businesses, many of them established by immigrants.  Assemblymember Chivukula's legislation seeks to streamline the certification process for women and people of color applying for permits to establish small businesses. 

 

Formore information on Progressive States Action's work to advancepro-immigrant state models, contact Suman Raghunathan: sraghunathan@progressivestates.org or at 212.680.3116, ext 113.

Learnmore about State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy at
http://progressivestates.org/immigrationreform.