State Immigration Project Update-Progressive Legislators Challenging Anti-Immigrant Movements

State Immigration Project Update

BY Suman Raghunathan

We have much to report in this Update from the State Immigration Project, and not only in response to Arizona’s recent anti-immigrant law (SB 1070) and its aftermath.

  • A broad network of elected officials, State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy (SLPIP), continues to grow and now includes legislators from twenty nine states;
  • Despite considerable mainstream media coverage of anti-immigrant proposals, state legislators are advancing pro-immigrant legislation and have largely blocked anti-immigrant bills being pushed in the wake of Arizona’s law;
  • A federal judge has blocked implementation of most provisions of SB 1070;
  • Based on state policy models, the federal DREAM Act to support a path to legalization and access to higher education for immigrant youth continues to gain support;
  • A wide range of policy and polling resources have been released that support pro-immigrant action from legislators and advocates.

Webinar: Resources to Advance Progressive Immigration Policy in Your State

Thursday, August 12 2010 - 3 pm Eastern

On Thursday, August 12, 2010, at 3 PM Eastern, the Immigration Policy Center and Progressive States Network will host a joint webinar to discuss research and data, answer state-specific demographic questions and strategize on how to advance progressive immigration policy in your state.


  • Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist, Progressive States Network
  • Walter Ewing, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Immigration Policy Center
  • Seth Hoy, Research Associate, Immigration Policy Center
  • Mary Giovagnoli, Director, Immigration Policy Center (Moderator)


When: Wednesday, August 12, 2010, 3:00-4:00pm EST

RSVP: To join the webinar, please RSVP to Wendy Sefsaf at

Progressive Legislators Challenging Anti-Immigrant Movements

A growing number of state legislators committed to advancing progressive immigration policy at the state level are working with Progressive States Network to confront the anti-immigrant movement at statehouses across the country. This diverse group, State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy (SLPIP), includes members from 29 states across the nation and has been growing rapidly – particularly in the wake of Arizona’s SB 1070’s passage. SLPIP members have been doing media work and interviews -- including this June 29, 2010 press call (click here for audio) – to highlight broad legislative opposition to anti-immigrant policies and alternative approaches that promote immigrant integration into local communities. As the Washington Post detailed in its profile of SLPIP legislators:

[W[ith little sign that Congress will act on comprehensive immigration reform this year, advocates for immigrants are also taking matters into their own hands. Like their political opponents, they have turned to their state legislatures to fight back… Lawmakers have been using employment, health and anti-discrimination bills to counter a wave of anti-immigrant legislation. Others have introduced measures specifically designed to keep an Arizona-style law from ending up on their governor's desk.

Most are members of State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy.

You can learn more about this vibrant and dynamic group by clicking here. Please tell your state legislators and state caucus leaders about SLPIP so they can join us and strengthen the collective voice of legislative leaders opposing the anti-immigrant movement.

Media Coverage of 6/29/2010 press call:

In the Media - Voices of SLPIP:

Anti-Immigrant State Proposals Failing Across the Country

SLPIP legislative leaders across the country, working with Progressive States Network and other allies, have helped block and defeat anti-immigrant proposals modeled on Arizona’s infamous and unprecedented SB 1070, which codified and advanced the anti-immigrant right’s ‘attrition through enforcement’ strategy.

Other states across the country have been rejecting the above strategy articulated by activist groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), NumbersUSA, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and FAIR-affiliated Kansas Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach (who won the Republican primary last week), which aim to craft regressive state and local laws that curtail the rights of undocumented immigrants and adversely affect they and their families’ quality of life – eventually forcing immigrant families out of states and communities.

However, the reality is that from Nevada to Arkansas to Massachusetts to Kansas and Rhode Island, anti-immigrant bills and ballot initiatives were overwhelmingly either not passed in state legislatures or have not even made it onto the ballot — underscoring that many elected leaders and the public reject this misguided approach.

PSN Resources Tracking Anti-Immigrant Bill Failures

The Legal Flaws of Arizona’s SB 1070

Recognizing the legal flaws of the Arizona law, on July 28th federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton blocked implementation of many of the most onerous and likely unconstitutional provisions of the law, including:

  1. Requiring all police officers to investigate the immigration status of individuals they believe are undocumented;
  2. Mandatory detention of all individuals who are arrested and cannot prove they have legal status in the US;
  3. Requiring all non-citizens to either register with the Department of Homeland Security or carry immigration documents with them at all times;
  4. Making it a state crime for undocumented residents to work or seek work

The court injunction did not block the provisions that prohibit individuals from harboring undocumented residents and bar day laborers from being hired if the individual who hires them impedes traffic.

In the wake of last week’s federal court ruling, anti-immigrant state lawmakers are now rethinking their plans to introduce bills similar to Arizona’s SB 1070. State legislators from Ohio, Utah, Idaho, and Minnesota, who had previously planned to introduce copycat bills based on SB 1070, now report they will seriously amend their proposals to avoid the major provisions covered under the current federal court injunction on SB 1070. Apart from reinforcing how many broad anti-immigrant bills are unconstitutional and pre-empt federal laws, last week’s court ruling seriously diminishes the political feasibility of such bills’ approval in state legislatures.

Alongside the encouraging signs provided by the injunction against SB 1070, advocates continue to push for a permanent injunction against the law, which has already resulted in widespread minimum wage violations against immigrant workers across the state. If not struck down by the courts, the law is sure to have a devastating effect on community policing and the state’s economy – already laboring under some of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation and a large state budget deficit.

Policy Resources on Arizona’s SB 1070 and its Legal and Economic Effects

Introducing Positive Immigration Legislation in 2011

As an alternative to the current wave of anti-immigrant proposals, PSN is working with advocates and progressive state legislators to craft and advance positive pro-immigrant proposals that expand opportunity for all residents, both immigrant and native-born, and focus on how states can develop common-sense approaches to immigration policy.

Our work in preparation for the 2011 legislative session falls into a few key categories:

  • Wage enforcement legislation
  • Supporting immigrant integration, including state tuition equity legislation for undocumented college-bound students
  • Community policing legislation that bars state and local law enforcement officers from asking residents for proof of immigration status
  • Expanding health care access for immigrant children with legal status and pregnant women by ending the five-year waiting period to access state Medicaid and State Child Health Plus programs
  • Supporting immigrant and women-owned small business entrepreneurs and highlighting their contributions to local and state economies

Click here to view more detailed descriptions, current bills, and model legislation on the pro-immigrant legislation detailed above.

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Federal Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update

Though President Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus say they are committed to enacting CIR this year, beltway advocates and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now report they will strongly consider pushing the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill before the end of 2010.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act would put roughly 725,000 high school graduates nationwide on an eventual path to citizenship and allow them to attend college and receive financial aid assistance. Reflecting the broad political support for state DREAM Acts, even in many conservative states, which provide college education for undocumented youth, the federal DREAM Act is widely seen as a federal immigration reform bill that has the political support and possibility of passing this year, with a bipartisan list of 39 Senate sponsors and 128 House sponsors. The AFL-CIO Executive Council also voted last week to support and advance the DREAM Act, reflecting broad recognition of the gains for working families from educating all young people and not “sending some of our best and brightest into the underground economy.”  The bill is also seen by many as a starting point to garner more political support for a broader comprehensive immigration reform package, which appears increasingly unlikely to be considered this year.

In a rare glimpse of internal immigration policy priorities, the Obama Administration and Department of Homeland Security officials acknowledged over the weekend they have avoided pursuing deportation orders against many undocumented students across the nation who have not committed crimes an immigration term called ‘deferred action’.  The acknowledgement comes as the number of deportations continues to reach unprecedented levels under the Obama Administration – nearly 390,000 immigrants were deported in 2009, roughly 20,000 more than in the final year of the Bush administration.

Many undocumented youth have been at the forefront of increasingly public actions calling for comprehensive immigration reform as well as the federal DREAM Act, a bill that would grant eventual legal status to undocumented high school graduates who meet a series of requirements, including being longtime US residents, entering the country before the age of 16, and enrolling in community college, a university, or the armed forces.

As federal immigration reform (including the bipartisan DREAM Act) has lagged, DREAM Act lead sponsor Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL and the second-highest ranking Senate Democrat) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) called for a moratorium on deporting students.  The Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security declined to impose such a moratorium even as they continued to call for passage of the DREAM Act.  In the meantime, it appears the Department of Homeland Security is granting ‘stays’ of students’ deportations on a case-by-case basis – yet are generally avoiding deporting students.

Resources on the DREAM Act

Click here to view more detailed descriptions, current bills, and model legislation on the pro-immigrant legislation detailed above.

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Research and Policy Digest

Immigrants, the Economy, and Wages

  • 4.22.2010 - Across the Spectrum: The Wide Range of Jobs Immigrants Do - This report, the latest in a series from the Fiscal Policy Institute that examine immigrants' roles in the economy at the city, state, and national level, details the broad range of jobs held by immigrants in the 25 largest metropolitan areas of the United States.  The analysis shatters much of the flawed conventional wisdom on immigrants being overwhelmingly concentrated in low-skilled, low-wage jobs - in fact, immigrants hold a wide variety of jobs, including those in highly-skilled sectors such as science, engineering, and the medical professions.  Perhaps most importantly, the report underlines that immigration and economic growth "go hand in hand" - in many metropolitan areas.

Flawed Immigration Enforcement Programs at the State and Local Level

  • VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a July 30 ruling that allows all law enforcement officials in VA to inquire into the immigration status of those they STOP or arrest – the equivalent of one of the most troubling and misguided components of Arizona’s recent SB 1070 law.  More from the Washington Post:
  • 5.27.10 - Private prison firm exploiting broken immigration system
  • 5.13.2010 - Enforcing Immigration Law at the State and Local Levels: A Public Policy Dilemma - This Rand Institute study finds that local and state enforcement of federal immigration laws come with concerns about the potential for racial profiling, strained community relations and improper resource allocation.  Such efforts could hamper state and local law enforcement's ability to investigate other crimes and interfere with its mission to protect and serve all members of the public.
  • Progressive States Network (4.8.10) - Secret deportation quotas, program failures, and high budget costs from local immigration enforcement revealed in recent reports
  • 4.1.2010 - A Program in Flux: new Priorities and Implementation Challenges for 287(g) - A new Migration Policy Institute report examines changes to the Department of Homeland Security's controversial 287(g) program, which seeks to train state and local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. According to the report, the proposed new agreements between the Department of Homeland Security and police departments reflects two new priorities on the part of federal immigration authorities: 1) a renewed focus on immigration enforcement efforts that target and deport immigrants accused of violent crimes; and 2) increased federal control over immigration enforcement operations in states that occur under the aegis of the 287(g) program. Critics of the program have expressed widespread concerns the program erodes community policing practices; results in racial profiling of immigrants regardless of whether they are undocumented; and blurs the line between civil (immigration) law and criminal law. the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has criticized the program for its lax federal oversight and unclear priorities, and numerous police chiefs and law enforcement professionals have also expressed concerns about the high costs associated with the program.

Wage enforcement

Wage theft and other efforts to crack down on employers who seek to circumvent wage and hour laws form part of a growing trend at the state level.  The New York State Legislature recently approved a landmark domestic workers bill of rights the first in the nation. The California State Legislature is currently considering a similar proposal, hopefully signaling yet another positive national trend.

Below are some resources that you might find useful on these efforts:

Flawed Employee Verification Systems: E-Verify

  • The National Immigration Law Center recently produced an excellent Fact Sheet on the E-Verify program and how its errors impact US citizens and lawfully present immigrants.  Their analysis finds that at a time of historic unemployment, the E-Verify program is likely to prevent eligible immigrants from working due to numerous errors in the system – a phenomenon likely to increase unemployment and decrease job security among immigrants with legal status.
  • NILC has also produced some excellent state fact sheets on the adverse impact E-Verify laws have.

Higher Levels of Immigration Do Not Result in More Crime

The Economic Benefits of Legalization

Two Studies on How Immigrants and Immigration Raise Wages for Native Workers:
  • The Impact of Immigrants in Recession and Economic Expansion - This new report from Migration Policy Institute finds immigration unambiguously improves employment, productivity and income for all workers. The study also finds immigration to the United States between 1990-2006 is responsible for a 2.9 percent increase in real wages for the average U.S. worker.
  • The Impact of Immigration and Immigration Reform on the Wages of American Workers - This New Policy Institute study finds that the number new immigrants to the US has resulted in increased average wages for native-born Americans in the short run, and even higher average wages for native-born Americans in the long term. The analysis also finds that past large-scale legalization programs have translated into higher wages for both previously undocumented immigrants as well as native-born Americans.

Immigrant Integration Policies

The Benefits of the DREAM Act

  • 7.22.2010 - DREAM Versus Reality:  An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries - This recent report from Migration Policy Institute details the importance of passing the federal DREAM Act, which would grant conditional legal status (and eventual US citizenship) to undocumented high school graduates with a minimum Associate's Degree and who meet a stringent set of requirements.  800,000 young people could gain legal status with the passage of the DREAM Act - including more than one in ten Latinos in the immigrant new destination states Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and North Carolina.  Each immigrant college graduate would generate an annual fiscal benefit of over $9,000 per year, including paying $5,300 more in taxes and cost $3,900 less in government expenses than if they had dropped out of high school.
  • 7.22.2010 - The DREAM Act:  Creating Opportunities for Immigrant Students and Supporting the U.S. Economy - This analysis from the Immigration Policy Center includes a detailed explanation of the federal DREAM Act, who stands to benefit from the federal legislation, the economic benefits of passing such legislation, how many states have been ahead of the curve with respect passing legislation to support in-state tuition, and details Congressional support for the legislation.

Misguided Voter Identification Laws that will likely bar immigrants from the franchise:


  • Lakoff on Conservatives, Immigration, and How to Fight Back Against Conservative Language
    George Lakoff, an expert on political framing and messaging, reinforces an excellent message for progressives, generally and specifically on immigration: don’t buy into the anti-immigrant right’s framing.  Lakoff believes in order to change public perception on particular groups or issues, progressives must constantly reiterate their own alternate framing and messaging.  For example, it’s important to use ‘undocumented immigrant’ rather than buy into the right’s term, ‘illegal immigrants’.  The longer and more consistently progressives reinforce their alternate frame, the higher the chance we can shift the general public’s perception on immigration and immigrants.

Recent Polling on Arizona’s SB 1070, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and States Taking Immigration Law Into their Own Hands

Three new polls on immigration and AZ SB 1070 commissioned by the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice found voters across the nation and on either side of the partisan divide deeply support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the undocumented. These polls also found a majority of voters want the federal government to tackle immigration, NOT state governments.

Polling highlights include (a full summary is attached):

  • 56% of voters want the federal government to address immigration reform.
  • 84% of those polled who supported AZ SB 1070 also support the current immigration reform proposal.
  • Voters in AR, CO, MO, and OH supported comprehensive immigration reform by a 14% margin – regardless of their party identification. 
  • 79% of all voters, including conservatives and moderate voters, supported the message, “immigration laws ought to reflect both our interests and our values as Americans… We’re a nation of laws, but also a nation of immigrants”.  This message resonated particularly well with conservative Republican voters.
  • Over 70% of voters said they were “frustrated” because politicians have “used immigration to play politics” and that they “need leaders who will solve this problem once and for all.”
  • In general, punitive anti-immigrant messaging did not translate into voter support. 

Links to the full PowerPoint detailing the polling results above are available on America’s Voice website at the following link:

Some immigration messaging based on this polling:

  • Comprehensive immigration reform remains very popular among voters, regardless of their party affiliation. 
  • Voter support for AZ’s anti-immigrant legislation is anchored in frustration at federal slowness on comprehensive immigration reform.
  • A majority of those polled want the federal government to step up with immigration solutions.
  • Continued federal inaction on immigration will only lead to a patchwork of flawed state approaches.
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Action Items and Events

Join State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy (SLPIP)!

We want to expand the number and visibility of state legislators committed to progressive immigration policy – if you are a state legislator, join State Legislators for Progressive Immigration by clicking here!

If you are an advocate, activist, or concerned resident who wants to advance common-sense immigration solutions at the state level, ask your state legislator or legislative caucus leaders to sign on to our principles and stand up for state-level progressive immigration policy and comprehensive immigration reform!

Webinar: Resources to Advance Progressive Immigration Policy in Your State

Thursday, August 12 2010 - 3 pm Eastern

On Thursday, August 12, 2010, at 3 PM Eastern, the Immigration Policy Center and Progressive States Network will host a joint webinar to discuss research and data, answer state-specific demographic questions and strategize on how to advance progressive immigration policy in your state.


  • Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist, Progressive States Network
  • Walter Ewing, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Immigration Policy Center
  • Seth Hoy, Research Associate, Immigration Policy Center
  • Mary Giovagnoli, Director, Immigration Policy Center (Moderator)

When: Wednesday, August 12, 2010, 3:00-4:00pm EST

RSVP: To join the webinar, please RSVP to Wendy Sefsaf at

National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC)

Sept 29-Oct 1, 2010 - Boston Ma

The 2nd Annual National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC) will be held in Boston, Massachusetts from September 29th through October 1, 2010 gathering hundreds of policymakers, practitioners, and experts to address four critical areas: naturalization, the economy, host communities, and justice.

NIIC will have many strong and valuable leaders gathering in Boston with a diverse set of specialized strategy sessions, a crosssector group of leaders from education, government, labor, advocacy, business and CBOs.

Recognizing that global migration is increasing and continues to bring challenges and opportunities, this conference is a unique occasion to share promising practices, provide timely updates on current developments in the field, reinforce existing networks and work together to impact the advancement of immigrant integration policies and practices.

Visit to register and find more information.

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The State Immigration Project Update is written and edited by:

Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist
Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Nora Ranney, Legislative Director