Since Congress continues to not deliver on its promise (and constitutional duty) to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the states are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and passing their own laws – for better or worse.
A new report just published by the National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled a listing of the new laws enacted by the states. The study indicates that the states passed 216 immigration-related laws in 2015, up from 171 laws that were passed in 2014. California and Texas passed the most laws (66 and 89, respectively), with Alaska being the only state that did not pass any.
The study’s findings are further summarized below.
Laws Related to Identification Documents
North Carolina passed a law that ended the use of consulate or embassy documents as an acceptable means to confirm a person’s identification for law enforcement purposes. (A valid passport document may still be used.)
Laws Related to Refugees
Many states passed legislation concerning refugees. California passed a resolution urging the Obama administration to increase the quota of Syrian refugees who could be admitted to the U.S., and Michigan also called for welcoming 25,000 more Iraqi refugees. Texas is now requiring community meetings with local government officials and community members before refugees may be placed in a specific county or city, and South Carolina will now require its Department of Social Services to gather and maintain data on the resettlement efforts of refugees to promote transparency in the spending of public funds for this purpose.
Laws Related to Education
Seven states (Utah, South Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, Idaho, North Dakota, and Louisiana) lifted sections of the federal naturalization exam and added them to their public high school curriculum and tests. Additionally, Oregon will begin allowing students who are exempt from nonresident tuition to receive financial aid from the state, and Georgia now permits local school boards to require that their schools add courses on America’s founding principles, including federalism, civil rights, and immigrants’ contributions to the country.
Laws Related to Police Actions
Illinois will now require law enforcement officers who detain or arrest foreign nationals to proactively inform them of their right to notify their consulate of their arrest or detention. Moreover, Tennessee will now let honorably discharged veterans who are lawful permanent residents (green card holders) work as police officers.
Louisiana passed legislation to create a taskforce that purports to examine the costs that undocumented foreign nationals impose on taxpayers, and North Carolina enacted a law to prohibit its cities and counties from becoming sanctuary cities.
In contrast, four states (New Jersey, California, Illinois, and Delaware) all passed laws to designate June as their state’s Immigrant Heritage Month, and California implemented a rule to allow all children to qualify for health care, regardless of their immigration status.
Additionally, Illinois directed its state Supreme Court to approve licenses for the practice of law to foreign nationals who have received employment authorization pursuant to a grant of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA). Moreover, Wyoming repealed its provision that previously required its state bar applicants to hold U.S. citizenship.
The laws that impact the flow of people across our international and national borders are and should be federal in nature. The laws impacting immigration must be consistent from state to state. It should not be left to individual states to manage the burden of passing their own immigration-related laws in response to Congress’ failure do so. States should not have to employ local law enforcement to act as tools for immigration enforcement. Immigration law is complex and to ask local law enforcement to become de facto agents of our federal immigration service takes our police away from their core mission: “to protect and serve the general welfare.” Safety of our citizenry is weakened when local police are trying to figure out who is and who is not in status… or if witnesses or victims of violent crimes are afraid to go to the police for protection because they are a foreign national. It is a national embarrassment that Congress refuses to address one of the most difficult questions facing our nation, and that is: “How can we fix our broken immigration system?” The answer is actual pretty straightforward. How does Congress fix any complicated and huge problem? Through a process of thoughtful negotiation and compromise. Congress and the Executive branch must work together to fix this! The Republicans and the Democrats must work together to fix this. No one is going to agree on all aspects of a reform bill, but our elected representative can enhance border security, reduce humanitarian hardships on families, improves our economy, improve our relationships with our neighbors and the world, and create opportunities to attract the best and the brightest from around the globe to want to be here and call the United States of America their home. Our nation’s immigration problems demand our attention. States are clamoring for it. President Obama’s (attempt at) Executive Action reflects a desperation to do something. Doing nothing is cowardice and wrong. And, building a wall and threatening to deport 12 million souls does not an immigration policy make. States, like President Obama, only take up immigration issues when those in Washington, D.C. have failed to do so.
More Blog Posts
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal on Controversial Alabama Immigration Law, May 8, 2013
Immigration Judges Request Separation from the Department of Justice, ImmigRantings, August 19, 2013
More States Expected to Exert Control Regarding Illegal Immigration Problems, ImmigRantings, August 3, 2013