Release: State Legislators Unite, Show Progressive Way Forward on Immigration

Progressive States Network

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CONTACT: Charles Monaco, Progressive States Network,, (212) 680-3116 x 115
Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, (213) 674-2832


Legislators From 28 States Join Forces To Advance Progressive Solutions At The State Level

Exactly one month before Arizona's draconian immigration law is set to take effect, state legislators from across the country stood together today to reject the politics of division illustrated by Arizona's approach, and show how their states are advancing inclusive, pro-immigrant measures at the state level in the absence of federal action.

At a press briefing this afternoon co-hosted by Progressive States Network and the National Immigration Law Center, members of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy (SLPIP) -- a dynamic and rapidly growing group of 54 legislators representing 28 states -- unveiled legislation they are advancing in their states to promote the effective integration of immigrants as critical members of communities and state economies (view the full list of signers here:

"While the White House continues to convene meetings to talk about federal immigration reform, state legislators across the nation are staying ahead of the curve by advancing positive and progressive measures that promote and support effective integration of immigrants and citizens and expand opportunities for all," said Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist at Progressive States Network.

"Congress' failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform has increased the pressure on state and local governments to address the issue of immigration in areas within their control. Some state legislators are undertaking purely restrictive and punitive measures," said Jonathan Blazer of the National Immigration Law Center. "But we continue to see state and local governments exploring ways to effectively incorporate immigrants into their communities. This is a reality-based approach that seeks to maximize the benefits of immigration - economic, social, and cultural - for towns, cities and states."

At the briefing, State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) discussed the disastrous economic effects being felt by Arizona since the passage of SB 1070, as well how SB 1070 fails to address either the real need for immigration reform nor the problems of border violence.

"Despite the claims of its supporters, Arizona's SB1070 actually does nothing to address violence at the border, and presents obstacles for individuals who are seeking to provide good community policing," said Rep. Sinema. "We want to find opportunities to help others in the country avoid SB1070-type measures and instead focus on policies that actually help prevent dangerous criminal activity."

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom (IA) outlined state wage enforcement legislation he is advancing that expands opportunity for and defends the rights of all workers. Iowa's SF 2416 passed in 2008 as an alternative to legislation penalizing immigrants, and targets unscrupulous employers who do not follow wage and hour laws while exploiting low-wage immigrant workers.

"One of the ways we've fought anti-immigrant legislation in Iowa is by seeking to strengthen workplace protections for all Iowa workers," said Sen. Bolkcom. "Our legislation targets those employers that would take advantage of any Iowa worker, including newcomers, because all workers deserve protection from wage theft. This legislation, which the Senate passed in 2008 and which we will reintroduce in 2011, will strengthen workers, strengthen families and strengthen Iowa communities."

State Sen. Luz Robles (UT) highlighted her efforts to restore fairness in health care to legal immigrant children and pregnant women by enabling these groups to receive federally-funded Medicaid and CHIP coverage without a five year waiting period. Utah's SB 44 was nearly enacted this year, and will continue to be discussed this summer.

"The removal of this 5 year waiting period for legal immigrants to receive coverage is simply good public policy from a health care perspective," said Sen. Robles. "That's why twenty-eight states are already implementing measures like this. We introduced it in the past 2 legislative sessions and will continue to advance it, because our number one priority is getting more children coverage in the state of Utah."

State Sen. Daylin Leach (PA) discussed his efforts to introduce and advance community policing and anti-racial profiling legislation. S 14101 would bar state and local law enforcement officers from taking on the added responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws.

"A number of police chiefs around the nation have made the point that the obligation contained in the Arizona law to enforce federal immigration law will undermine their ability to do their jobs," said Sen. Leach. "Legislation I've introduced will do two things: one, say that state and local police do not have a role in enforcing federal immigration law; and two, make sure that they do not improperly use race, ethnicity, or perceived ethnicity as a factor."

For audio of today's press briefing:

State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy is a diverse group of state legislators from around the nation who are advancing sensible and progressive approaches to immigration at the state level. These leaders are rejecting Arizona’s alarmist approach to immigration in favor of one that reflects our core values as a nation of laws and as a nation of immigrants.

Progressive States Network is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the work of progressive state legislators around the country and to the passage of state legislation that delivers on issues the issues that matter to working families: strong wage standards and workplace freedom, balancing work and family responsibilities, health care for all, smart growth and clean energy, tax and budget reform, clean and fair elections, and technology investments to bridge the digital divide.

The National Immigration Law Center is a legal advocacy organization that works to defend and advance the rights of low income immigrants and their families. Over the past thirty years, NILC has earned a national reputation for its extensive knowledge of the complex interplay between immigrants' legal status and their rights under U.S. laws. The center is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, with an office in Washington, D.C.