Federal immigration reform may be on the backburner for the time being, but a new report issued last month shows that there has been a recent surge in immigration-related state laws. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in 43 states and the District of Columbia have enacted 146 immigration-related laws and 231 resolutions related to immigration so far this year – an 83 percent increase from the 206 laws and resolutions enacted in first half 2012.
Many immigration experts attribute the surge in state immigration laws to the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2013 affirming that portion of Arizona’s 2010 immigration law that required police to check the immigration status of people they stop, along with the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that grants temporary legal status to certain minor undocumented immigrants.
Laws on identification documents are the most common state immigration laws to be passed in 2013, with 20 states passing 34 measures, many of which defined eligibility for state-issued identification and driver’s licenses. Fourteen states enacted laws that allowed undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition. Other common measures include laws authorizing funds for immigration enforcement, English language and citizenship classes, and migrant and refugee programs.
In Illinois, lawmakers passed measures to appropriate money for bilingual education and designate funding for immigrant integration services.
While many states diverge on their approach to immigration legislation, the Washington Post reports that there does seem to be a consensus that many states would like guidance from the federal government on immigration matters, with state legislators passing 25 resolutions specifically asking the federal government to respond to aspects of national immigration policy and 8 states passed resolutions calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
Although official immigration reform developments have stalled given the budget debate and federal government shutdown, some insiders report that a few Republicans are working behind the scenes to advance immigration legislation and others speculate that House Democratic leaders may introduce a sweeping immigration bill of their own – a modified version of the legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year – in an effort to pressure on House Republicans.