Nine States Reject Broad Anti-Immigrant Bills

The steady drumbeat of states recognizing the error of enforcement-only anti-immigrant legislation continues. This week, Iowa and Kansas join the list of nine states to date (including Virginia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, and Washington) that have defeated their broad (and misguided) anti-immigrant bills this legislative session.

Advocates in Iowa report that both anti-immigrant proposals, HF 27 and SF 102, are effectively dead after they failed to advance out of their respective committees. At the same time, the state senate continues to consider a good example of practical and enlightened state policy on immigration: wage law enforcement. Iowa's wage law enforcement bill, S311, focuses on going after bad-apple employers who attempt to cheat their workers (both documented and undocumented, immigrant and native-born) out of their wages.

And Kansas, home to notorious anti-immigrant lawyer Kris Kobach (the architect and author of Arizona's infamous SB 1070 and now Kansas Secretary of State) recently defeated its broad anti-immigrant proposals based on SB 1070. The rejection of the bill came amid concern from legislators on both sides of the partisan aisle that the measure would expose churches to prosecution for providing spiritual and material support to suspected undocumented immigrants through its “safe harbor” clause, which threatens any individual who knowingly or unknowingly provides any form of support - even a car ride - to an undocumented immigrant.

Virginia, which saw over ten anti-immigrant proposals offered in its state legislature this year, effectively defeated all of them after the state senate created a special subcommittee to consider (and reject) the state’s list of misguided bills.

It's worth noting that the business community and industry leaders have been one of the most consistent and effective sets of voices expressing concern over the impact and implications of anti-immigrant legislation. Advocates in Virginia note that Virginia Employers for Sensible Immigration Policy (a coalition which unites powerful Chambers of Commerce from throughout the state with influential agribusiness associations) played a critical role in defeating the state’s anti-immigrant bills by pointing out the detrimental effect broad anti-immigrant proposals would have on the state's economy, industries, and, by extension, its tax base.

In fact, the idea that being anti-immigrant is bad for business continues to ring loud and clear in Arizona, where economists project the state will lose nearly $500 million in lost tourism revenue alone, and also stands to lose roughly 3,000 jobs. This week, over 60 Arizona business leaders (including executives from US Airways, Intel, and The Arizona Republic newspaper) sent an open letter to Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce urging him to not advance any more broad anti-immigrant bills, noting the dramatic and negative impact of SB 1070 on the state, already ground zero for astronomical foreclosure rates.

As states continue to consider immigration legislation, they would do well to follow the lead of the business community to enact positive, pro-immigrant legislation that expands opportunity for all residents - both immigrant and native-born - common-sense strategies that will be key to rebuilding prosperity and ensuring economic security for our states.

This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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