Suman Raghunathan, PSN's Immigration Policy Specialist, joined State
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Laura
of GRITtv to discuss how progressive state legislators across the
nation are fighting back against draconian right-wing anti-immigrant
and advancing common-sense immigration solutions on both the state and
Advocates demanding stricter rules against illegal immigration -- including those backing Arizona's new law clamping down on undocumented immigrants -- have long argued that state lawmakers have been forced to act because of Congress's reluctance to take the lead.
But with little sign that Congress will act on comprehensive immigration reform this year, advocates for immigrants are also taking matters into their own hands. Like their political opponents, they have turned to their state legislatures to fight back.
In states from Pennsylvania to Utah, a battle of bills has been taking place between those who want to reproduce the Arizona law, which hands police more power to detain anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, and those who want to extend further rights to immigrants.
States across the country are proposing in-state college tuition rates for undocumented students, a move mirrored by Congress' proposed DREAM Act, which was re-introduced at the federal level on March 25th. Currently ten states allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in state colleges and universities under the cheaper in-state tuition rate category: California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington. In recent years, anti-immigrant legislators sought to modify or repeal laws providing access to in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, though they've failed each time. This session, those efforts failed again in Utah and Nebraska. Kansas didn't even bring up repealing it.
A RESOLUTION REQUESTING THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROVIDE GREATER
FUNDING AND ASSISTANCE TO THE STATE OF GEORGIA TO OFFSET THE TAXES PAID
BY IMMIGRANT TAXPAYERS YET NOT DISTRIBUTED TO THE STATE TO FUND
NECESSARY SERVICES FOR THOSE RESIDENTS MANDATED BY THE FEDERAL
of the attacks on immigrants are focused on the idea that undocumented
immigrants use more benefits than they pay in taxes. Advocates first need
to highlight the multiplestudies that have shown that even when you
total up the limited services for which they do qualify -- public school
education and emergency medical care for example -- undocumented immigrants pay
significantly more in state taxes than states spend on those benefits. The Texas State Controller, for example,
estimated that undocumented immigrants added over $17 billion to the state
economy and paid over $400 million more in taxes than they received in benefits
from the state.
need to emphasize three key points beyond educating the population:
When draconian ID
requirements are imposed, legal citizens, not undocumented immigrants,
lose more benefits under such policies;
The costs of trying
to screen out undocumented immigrants are higher than their current burden
Federal level anti-immigrant
politicians have made the problem worse for state and local leaders by
denying federal aid for communities needing financial help.
leaders need to both document the myths
promoted by anti-immigrant forces, but also promote policies that emphasize the
ways investing in public services reflects our common values and the long-run
economic benefits from such investments.
immigrants and public benefits legislation should: