Three Years After SB1070, A Dramatic Shift on Immigration in the States

Three years ago this month, Arizona's SB1070 was enacted, setting off a wave of copycat anti-immigrant state bills despite the increasingly dubious constitutionality of such laws and an increasing consensus about their destructive economic consequences. Three years later, with Congress on the precipice of debating federal immigration reform, the debate over immigration policy in the states has shifted dramatically. That shift can be seen in the number of states that have adopted policies like tuition equity for all immigrant students — which was signed into law in Oregon and Colorado in recent weeks and which continues to gain momentum in other states. But it can also be seen in the number of states where resolutions have been introduced this session urging Congress to pass a comprehensive reform package that includes an accessible and realistic path to citizenship.

Today, members of PSN's National Immigration Working Group, a group of lawmakers from across the country committed to supporting pro-immigrant policies at the state and federal level, announced that they plan to introduce a number of state resolutions supporting federal reform that would bring the total number of such resolutions introduced in statehouses this year up to sixteen. States where plans to introduce resolutions were announced today include Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and North Dakota. They would join states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Oregon, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas who have all already seen one or multiple resolutions introduced this year.

Colorado State Senator Angela Giron, Chair of the National Immigration Working Group, noted that many of these resolutions have been sponsored by state legislators who have been leaders on fights in their states, both against anti-immigrant bills and in favor of positive immigration policies. "As we look at the landscape in the states as Congress is set to debate immigration reform, I think it is safe to say the tide has turned," said Sen. Giron. "The fact that state lawmakers are now standing up should send a message to Congress: Americans support a path to citizenship for all 11 million aspiring citizens currently living in the shadows that is as inclusive and accessible as possible."

Even more indicative of the shift in the debate over immigration in statehouses is the fact that, where these resolutions are receiving a vote, they are often passing with bipartisan or even unanimous support. Just last week in Nevada, a resolution urging Congress to "include a realistic pathway to citizenship" and to "create an immigration process that strengthens our nation’s economy and allows aspiring citizens to continue making contributions to our communities, our State and our nation" passed unanimously. According to Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom, that type of vote would have been nearly impossible to imagine three years ago. "Congress needs to listen to what's going on out here in the states," said Sen. Segerblom. "The American people are ready for this."

Resolutions in New Jersey and New Mexico have also passed with bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, in both Washington D.C. and communities across the nation (including state capitals), tens of thousands of supporters are expected this week at rallies and other events in support of a path to citizenship. As Congress inches closer to beginning what is certain to be an historic debate, state lawmakers and their constituents alike appear intent on making sure their voices are heard.

(Visit this page for a list of the state resolutions that have been introduced or announced. For more information on PSN's National Immigration Working Group, visit this page.)