As state legislatures begin to pick up speed early in the 2012 session, a growing number of states that passed broad anti-immigrant laws over the past two years are seeing the error of their ways. Citing widespread economic devastation, a dramatically-worsened business climate, and a loss of public support, four states out of the five that passed laws based upon Arizona and Alabama’s flawed models are now seeking to repeal their anti-immigrant laws.
As conservative state Attorneys General prepare to take their efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act all the way to Supreme Court arguments this spring, an outpouring of support for the health law from state legislators last week made it clear that those seeking to scuttle health reform are not the only ones speaking for the states. Over 500 state legislators representing all 50 states signed on to an Amicus Brief backing the constitutionality of the mimimum coverage provision of the law that was submitted to the Supreme Court last week, a broad show of support for the ACA coming at the beginning of both a pivotal election year and new legislative sessions which will see many lawmakers address the implementation of state exchanges provided for under the law. In addition to the filing of the Amicus Brief, legislators in a number of states held press conferences last week to highlight why they are standing up for the health law. Here are some state-by-state highlights of the coverage of both the brief and of the events held in state capitals across the nation last week.
On Tuesday, President Obama reiterated his hope for comprehensive immigration reform in a speech delivered in El Paso, Texas. Yet while federal reform remains stalled, many states have continued to push forward with advancing common sense approaches to immigration policy. In just the last few days alone, there has been a flurry of positive activity as states reject the destructive politics of scapegoating and division exemplified by Arizona’s SB1070 in favor of pragmatic solutions that will grow their economies and keep their communities safe.
In recent weeks, a bipartisan approach to immigration policy in Utah has gained widespread national attention as a collaborative, pragmatic effort with the active involvement of many different stakeholders and communities. But late last week, months of hard work on the part of Utah state legislators in pursuit of inventive and effective immigration solutions ended in disappointment as a trio of misguided immigration bills were quickly introduced and passed by Utah’s state legislature with little opportunity for public input or debate. Despite the good intentions of so many, the results of this effort do nothing to address the need for common sense immigration policies that expand opportunity for all, and they are not a model for other states to follow.
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.
At a press briefing co-hosted by Progressive States
Network and the National Immigration Law Center, members of State Legislators
for Progressive Immigration Policy (SLPIP)-- a dynamic and
rapidly growing group of 54 legislators representing 28 states --
unveiled legislation they are advancing in their states to promote the
effective integration of immigrants as critical members of communities
and state economies
Grappling with its own large budget deficit, the Utah State legislature
found time to move a number of initiatives, both positive and negative.
Public education and higher education both suffered significant cuts,
although not as bad as the worst proposals, with a tobacco tax the major
revenue approved to close budget gaps.
Even as right-wing state legislators and attorneys general from various
states unleash a barrage of attacks in an attempt to halt federal health
reform before it starts, progressive state legislators and officials
have been pushing back, highlighting the benefits that states will
receive and the increased provision of quality and affordable care for
families through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.