This year, the national call for progress on immigration energized state fights for more inclusive immigration policy and, notably, stemmed the flow of anti-immigrant bills that seemed omnipresent just two short years ago. While the long-awaited federal package for immigration reform makes its way through the legislative process, here’s a recap of the action legislators took in states across the country.
In contrast to the conservative policies we've seen move in the states over the past two years, 2013 has so far seen at least a handful of states where progressive policies are being introduced and enacted across a range of issue areas. With legislative sessions about midway through, here's a roundup of the policies moving in a couple of those states -- Minnesota and Colorado:
"This morning’s announcement by the Obama administration that DREAM Act eligible students and others will be allowed to apply for deferred action and work authorization is a common-sense, humane, and responsible action that will immediately bring hope to hundreds of thousands young undocumented Americans seeking nothing more than to continue to live in their country and contribute to our economy. We applaud the administration for taking decisive, practical action today that immediately allows so many talented young people already living here to, for the first time, see a real future for themselves in their nation."
As the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the challenge to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070, State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy – a growing national group of 94 state legislators representing constituents in 38 states and counting – issued the following statement.
The court and the legal pundits are missing something if their focus rests solely on who should be burdened with enforcing our outdated immigration laws. The real story on SB 1070 is the growing national consensus that the law, and the “self-deportation” approach upon which it relies, is a failed and disastrous approach to immigration — one that has rapidly fallen out of favor in states across the country.
While federal efforts to fix our broken immigration system remain on hold, support is growing among state lawmakers for common-sense, proactive approaches that welcome immigrants and expand opportunity for all, both immigrant and native-born. Across the country, a growing and diverse number of forward-thinking state legislators are turning away from unconstitutional, divisive, and economically devastating approaches taken by states such as Arizona and Alabama. Instead they are advancing inventive policies that make economic sense for states’ bottom lines and uphold their reputations. One such approach, tuition equity, continues to gain political and popular support and build momentum in statehouses across the country.
In the year since conservatives took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and legislative bodies in states across the nation, we’ve seen them move their agenda with alarming disregard for both democracy and the economic security of the nation. From the irresponsibly provoked debt ceiling “crisis” to the wholesale obstruction of job creation efforts, conservatives on the national stage took an approach of reckless political brinksmanship over the past year that put the entire economy at risk. And from Wisconsin to Alabama and beyond, 2011 saw conservatives in the states—buoyed by support from their corporate allies in the 1%—launch attack after attack on workers, women, voters, and immigrants. But the new year brings new hope for progressives looking to turn the tide—hope that, for the time being, largely resides not in the halls of Congress but in the 50 states.
As comprehensive immigration reform remained stalled in Congress in 2011, the issue persisted as a top priority among state legislatures that pushed various bills targeting undocumented immigrants. Today, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) released The Wrong Approach: State Anti-Immigration Legislation in 2011, a report that offers a state-by-state breakdown of the status of anti-immigrant bills introduced over the past year. In fact, in 2011 many more states considered and advanced laws focused on expanding opportunity for immigrants and residents as a whole in a variety of areas, including access to higher education and labor rights. As 2012 legislative sessions kick off, scores of state legislators are working to advance common-sense approaches to immigration policy—those that bolster state economies and honor our nation’s values, according to Progressive States Network (PSN), a national organization that provides support to state legislators advancing positive, common-sense immigration measures.
This week’s misguided ruling by a federal judge in Alabama that upheld parts of the harshest anti-immigrant state law in the nation, HB 56, is a devastating setback to our nation’s deeply held values, Alabama’s economic prosperity, and the well-being of all Alabama residents. The Alabama decision does not represent existing and binding Supreme Court precedent, and it stands as an outlier in stark contrast to other recent federal rulings on similarly draconian anti-immigrant laws, including Arizona’s SB 1070, where the courts have ruled similar provisions unconstitutional — including those that require law enforcement officials to ask for immigration papers from anyone they suspect on sight of being undocumented. If allowed to stand, this decision would put countless Alabama families and children in danger, drive taxpayers out of the state, sink Alabama’s economy, and set a chilling example that other states would be foolhardy to follow.