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Immigration Policy in the States- Mid-session Developments

Immigration Policy in the States- Mid-session Developments

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

http://www.progressivestates.org/dispatch

Increasing-Democracy

Immigration Policy in the States- Mid-session Developments

Growing-Economy

Providing Broadband For All: Washington State and West Virginia Take Strides Forward

Regular Features

Research Roundup: Truth in Immigration, dying from lack of health care, costs of commuting, green investing, and budget dangers in Georgia

EVENT

 Conference Call: State Policy Options for Prescription Drug Reform

Progressive States Network will host a conference call this Friday, March 28th, at 1:00 pm (EST) on State Policy Options for Prescription Drug Reform. The call is co-sponsored by the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARX), Prescription Policy Choices, and The Prescription Project. The call will discuss in more detail the policies and issues discussed in today's Stateside Dispatch.

Please RSVP at http://snipr.com/prescriptiondrugcall

Speakers will include:
Maine State Rep. Sharon Treat, Executive Director of NLARx
New Hampshire State Rep. Cindy Rosenwald
Washington State Rep. Jamie Pedersen
Ann Woloson, Executive Director of Prescription Policy Choices
Marcia Hams, Assistant Director of The Prescription Project
Adam Thompson, Senior Health Policy Specialist, Progressive States Network

Increasing-Democracy

Immigration Policy in the States- Mid-session Developments

With many states having finished or well into their legislative sessions, the story on immigration in the states is one of a few bad bills passed, a lot of bad bills defeated and a few positive programs moving forward.

Most states have rejected anti-immigrant bills filed, while a number of states where bills initially moved forward defeated or stalled them in the end:

Even many bills that passed were often limited or qualified in various ways:

  • Utah's Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. signed anti-immigrant bill SB 81 into law.  Provisions that would have ended Utah's access to in-state tuition rates were stripped from the bill before passage.  The remaining provisions of the bill -- allowing local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws, forbidding localities from engaging in "sanctuary" policies, and requiring public employers and their contractors to verify the legal status of workers -- won't go into effect until July 2009 on the hope that the "immigration problem" will be solved by Congress and a new administration before SB 81 goes into effect.

  • In Mississippi, the legislature sent SB 2988, which would require companies to use E-Verify to check the citizenship status of their employees, to the Governor with felony sanctions against both employers and employees. While Governor Haley Barbour signed the bill, he noted that "the federal government itself has said E-Verify is not a reliable system" and emphasized that small employers are exempt until 2011.

  • In Virginia, the legislature rejected bills that would have denied undocumented students access to higher education (HB 14), punished citizens who assist undocumented immigrants in obtaining any "benefit, service, status, or privilege" (HB 45), established English as the state's official language (HB 55), and seized the vehicles of individuals driving without a license (HB 63, HB 178, HB 180, HB 433, HB 446, SB 515).  What did pass were companion bills, HB 820/SB 609, to require a check of citizenship on anyone taken into custody at a jail or correctional facility, a bill to suspend a business' right to operate in Virginia for at least a year if it is found to employ an undocumented worker (HB 926), and another to require all government contractors to state in a written contract that they won't employ an undocumented worker (HB 1298).

On the driver's license issue, Oregon's legislature codified SB 1080, the Governor's Executive Order to make lawful presence a requirement for Oregon's driver's licenses.  Similarly, Idaho's Governor signed into law HB 366 which further restricts immigrants' access to driver's licenses by requiring licenses issued to legal immigrants to have expiration dates matching the expiration of their immigration documentation. But the Maryland legislature rejected proposals to prohibit licenses for undocumented immigrants in that state.

A number of positive immigration bills have also passed this session, including:

  • New Mexico's legislature approved the passage of a bill, SB 71, to criminalize human trafficking that extends state benefits to victims and creates a task force to further study the issue and make legislative recommendations.

  • At the end of February, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed an Executive Order creating a New Americans Policy Council that will promote strategies to help legal immigrants become naturalized and learn English language skills, as well as facilitate public-private partnerships to better integrate new Americans into the fabric of the state's society and economy.  The Washington state legislature took the additional step of providing $340,000 in funding to promote community economic development and build the capacity of organizations across the state that provide naturalization assistance to legal permanent residents.  This policy will  help integrate the estimated 135,000 legal permanent residents in the state eligible for citizenship and boost economic development through greater workforce and civic participation.

Many bills, both bad and good, are still active in other states.  For example, while the passing of Georgia's "crossover day" means that 6 anti-immigrant bills are dead, some dangerous bills remained, including HB 978, which would allow police to confiscate vehicles of undocumented drivers who get into a traffic accident, and SB 350, which would make it a felony to drive without a license.  On the other hand, a number of states, like Iowa, are still considering wage enforcement and other measures to crack down on low-wage employers, instead of scapegoating undocumented immigrants. 

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Growing-Economy

Providing Broadband For All: Washington State and West Virginia Take Strides Forward

Broadband is a key component of economic development, a resource capable of producing economic savings  and a mechanism to enhance residents' quality of life.  In the past few weeks, Washington State and West Virginia have taken substantial steps to address the digital divide (the gap between those who have access to information technology and those who do not) by passing progressive broadband legislation. 

Washington State:  Washington State Senate Bill 6438, introduced by Senator Kohl-Welles, and strongly supported by Senator Kauffman, Representative Hudgins and Representative McCoy, sets forth a comprehensive and integrated statewide, high-speed Internet deployment and adoption strategy.  The bill focuses on supplying broadband to all communities by implementing a mapping plan to identify existing broadband and spurring deployment of broadband infrastructure to underserved areas.  Additionally, the bill addressed the demand side of broadband utilization by funding community technology programs that address digital literacy issues.  Key elements include:

  • Map data down to the census block level, which ensures that state leaders can see if there are digital divides within zip codes.

  • The creation of partnerships between different government departments -- such as trade, economic development, utilities, transportation, and education -- to ensure that broadband deployment will not only provide increased access but also smart utilization of the Internet.
  • Strong digital literacy legislation, thanks in large part to strong efforts by the Communities Connect Network. This section creates a web-based map of all community technology programs, creates a community technology grant program, and allocates $500,000 for that program. 

A major drawback of Senate Bill 6438 is the provision that prohibit the public release of data collected from broadband service providers.  This lack of transparency creates a hurdle to public verification of data and a barrier to ensuring that all communities have ubiquitous broadband and quality service.

West Virginia: Thanks to new legislation, HB 4637proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, and sponsored by Speaker of the House of Delegates, Richard Thompson, West Virginia is one step closer to meeting its goal of universal high speed Internet by 2010.  This legislation will create a Broadband Deployment Fund and a Broadband Deployment Council in order to extend high speed Internet access to unserved areas of West Virginia.  The bill has three main components: first, it establishes a state Broadband Development Council; second, it provides for a mapping project; and third, it establishes a deployment plan.

The mapping plan set forth in the legislation is very broad and allows the council to delegate much of the mapping project to an outside organization.  It is essential that if a large part of the mapping project is delegated to an outside organization any of the data collected regarding broadband availability, connectivity speeds or existing infrastructure be collected at a census block level and be given to the Broadband Deployment Council, a public body, for verification.  Public interest organizations, such as the Center for Public Integrity, Public Knowledge, and Free Press, all have highlighted the need for mapping data to be aggregated by a public body, as a means of protecting broadband consumers.  

The Broadband Deployment Council is unfortunately weighted too heavily towards industry representation, which may lead to biased findings and hinder the committee's ability to protect the public interest.  While the Council has nine members from different segments on the community, including a representative from the Communications Workers of America, telecommunication industry representatives have four of the nine seats on the council.

Lastly, HB 4637 will provide for the development of a strategy and mechanism for extending broadband access to unserved areas across West Virginia by stimulating demand for those services and by constructing the necessary infrastructure to meet that demand.  

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Research Roundup

With a new website, Truth in Immigration,  the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) has created a national clearinghouse for refuting immigration falsehoods that seeks to "refute legal and factual inaccuracies about immigrants and/or Latinos."

In Dying for Coverage, Families USA has produced state-by-state reports on the number of deaths cause by the lack of health insurance.  State reports are available for AR, CO, FL, IA, MI, MO, NVNH, NM, OH, ORPA, VAWV, and WI.

Commuting costs are a disproportionate burden on the working poor, according to Commuting to Opportunity: The Working Poor and Commuting in the United States by the Brookings Institution.  The working poor spend 6.1% of their income on commuting compared to just 3.8% for other workers, highlighting the need for more cost and energy-efficient transit options in our metropolitan regions.

What makes a development good for a community?  The Liveable Communities Coalition has developed a Smart Growth Scorecard, 50 questions covering everything from housing diversity, compactness, community needs and connectivity to work and retail to assess new developments with an eye to promoting sustainable smart growth.

In Don't Get Burned: The Risks of Investing in New Coal-Fired Generating Facilities, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) highlights why coal-burning power plants are not only bad for the environment, but are likely to be bad economic investments for companies due to the unknown costs of carbon capture and storage along with the rising costs of constructing new plants.  Conversely, a new report from Clean Edge sees strong industry growth in clean energy technologies like solar and wind.

As Georgia's legislative chambers debate tax-cut packages, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute has a new analysis showing the damaging impact these tax cuts would have on education and other services.  Because the proposals would use poorly designed formulas to cap tax rates below the growing need for services, the problems will only increase over time.

A new film, A Dream Deferred, gives a powerful media resource that highlighted dedicated high-school students are denied the chance to attend college, based solely on their undocumented status and why "Dream Acts' to offer in-state tuition for such immigrants is so crucial to them and to our communities.


Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
J. Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Julie Schwartz, Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Operations Manager
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

Please shoot us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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