Arizona & Alabama Copycats Slow, Tuition Equity on the Move in Statehouses

As we approach the middle of the legislative session in many statehouses across the country, it’s clear that state legislators are continuing to abandon the unconstitutional, anti-immigrant approach modeled off of Arizona and Alabama’s economically disastrous laws.  Legislators, responding to changing demographics and politics, have instead started to focus on plausible and inclusive strategies aimed at broadening prosperity and increasing opportunities for all – regardless of immigration status.

The hangover from harsh anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, in addition to the fresh and potent backlash of Alabama’s economically devastating HB 56, have had serious legal and political ramifications across the country. The 11th Circuit has enjoined two of the more outlandish provisions of HB 56, while a federal judge ruled that a provision of SB 1070 did not pass constitutional muster – a fate that may await the entire law when it heads to the Supreme Court later this term.

The political ramifications have also been stark. Kris Kobach, the Kansas Attorney General who has spent a troubling amount of time concocting anti-immigrant schemes across the country, has seen his approval rating drop to 34%. Meanwhile, the virulently anti-immigrant State Senator Scott Beason -- a primary sponsor of Alabama’s HB 56 -- lost his Congressional primary bid by a whopping 32%. These developments have confirmed that being anti-immigrant is not only destructive from a policy perspective – it’s also just plain bad politics.

That important conclusion has come just as the enormous and emergent political power of Latinos has come into full focus. State Legislators from across the country have begun to notice this sea change and have responded by moving proposals that attempt to marry principles of inclusion with efforts to develop the significant human capital that immigrants bring to the table.

One such policy concept, Tuition Equity, has built significant momentum this session – with promising bills introduced in Hawaii (HB  1457 SD 1), Colorado (SB 15), and New York (S  4179). Developments thus far in the 2012 session on Tuition Equity also reflect a growing consensus -- twelve states already have laws on the books. State laws are also putting pressure on the passage of a Federal DREAM Act, a proposal that enjoys broad support from the Latino community and a growing  number of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who understand that wasting the precious minds of talented immigrant children is not only tragic – but also terrible for America’s chances to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy.

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