(Note: With legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this week’s Dispatch is the third in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different critical policy areas across the fifty states.)
As comprehensive immigration reform remained stalled in Washington, D.C. in the first half of 2011, common-sense state legislators across the nation took up the fight in their legislative sessions, defeating expensive and misguided enforcement bills that targeted undocumented immigrants and their families. Despite the deluge of SB 1070 copycat bills promised by anti-immigrant groups, attempts to mimic Arizona’s anti-immigrant law largely failed, as did a far-right effort to rewrite the U.S. Constitution by revoking citizenship for children born in the United States. Encouragingly, state legislative sessions saw a wide variety of innovative and common-sense proposals that sought to expand opportunity for all residents, both immigrant and native-born, through approaches emphasizing access to education, workforce development, and community policing.
The business community in several states stepped up their opposition to broad anti-immigrant proposals this session, citing the devastating impact of enforcement-only bills on their states’reputations, tourism industries, workforces, and agricultural sectors. One main galvanizing factor behind this increased activism from the business community has been the realization that it is extremely expensive to be anti-immigrant — and that an enforcement-only approach has been shown to wreak havoc on state economies and workforces. In fact, recent studies and news reports have estimated that at least 100,000 Latino families (many of which include U.S. citizen children and legal permanent residents in addition to undocumented workers) departed Arizona after the passage of SB 1070 in 2010 for more welcoming states such as New Mexico — which will likely benefit from increased sales and income tax receipts due to immigrant consumers’ purchasing power. According to economic projections, similar “attrition through enforcement” policies will only serve to further decimate the economies of the states that adopt them, depriving them of desperately-needed revenue in addition to a stable workforce.
From the widespread rejection of Arizona copycat bills and newer anti-immigrant attacks in the states to the growing momentum behind providing opportunity through tuition equity for students, ensuring safer communities through community policing, and withdrawal from the flawed federal E-Verify program, states made fateful choices on the future prosperity of their economies as they wrestled with immigration policy in 2011 sessions:
Promised Deluge of Arizona Copycat Bills Largely Defeated
Despite a predicted influx of state bills modeled upon SB 1070, Arizona’s 2010 “show me your papers” law, an overwhelming majority of state legislatures defeated or refused to advance similarly broad anti-immigrant bills during 2011 sessions. Of the 22 states where such measures were introduced this year, 16 defeated their proposals outright (a few remain pending in committee in legislatures with year-round sessions, but are not expected to advance). Read more >
State Compacts: Advancing Common-Sense Conversations
Compacts essentially aim to develop a set of principles on immigration policy and define what makes sense for a specific state, and in doing so bring together members of the business, faith, and law enforcement sectors along with members of state government and community leaders. Read more >
States Take up the DREAM: Tuition Equity Advances
In a reflection of widespread voter support for the federal DREAM Act, which Congress again failed to pass last winter, state proposals to ensure tuition equity for all in-state students gained significant momentum this session. Read more >
Community Policing: Partnering with Law Enforcement for Safer Communities
The introduction of community policing legislation in many states in 2011 reflected a growing trend of state lawmakers and law enforcement officials alike questioning the value and impact of immigration enforcement proposals. Read more >
Lawmakers Fight Flawed, Costly E-Verify Programs
States and state legislators are fighting back hard against mandatory E-Verify, citing its negative impact on states’ economies, its crippling effect on small businesses, and its ultimate impact as a job killer at a time when states continue to grapple with large budget deficits. Read more >
The Outlook for 2012 and Beyond
States will continue to grapple with immigration in 2012 sessions, particularly given the dim prospects for large-scale comprehensive immigration in Congress in a major Presidential election year. In the meantime, many progressive and forward-looking states and legislators are already preparing to introduce and re-introduce proposals that focus on real solutions and that expand opportunity for all residents, both immigrant and native-born. Read more >
“The current legal immigration regime with its inadequacies and costs is robbing America of the next generation of great companies…. We will have more jobs and be more competitive as a country if we make the default setting that you are welcome if you possess skills and knowledge that we need to solve problems and create solutions for the economy.”
— Bob Greifeld, CEO and President of NASDAQ, testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing this week on the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy and the economic imperative to enact comprehensive immigration reform. (Greifeld testified as a member of Partnership for a New American Economy, a national, bipartisan coalition of mayors and business leaders who believe intelligent immigration reform is needed to aid the American economy and create much-needed new jobs for American workers.)
Research Roundup: Anti-Immigrant Laws and Education, State Budget Cuts for FY2012, and More
In this week’s Research Roundup: Studies from the Center for American Progress on the effect of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law on the state’s education system, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on how harmful state budget cuts for FY2012 will slow the economic recovery and undermine job creation efforts, the National Employment Law Project on how recent job growth has been even more lopsided toward low-wage jobs than previously reported, and the Federal Communications Commission on how various media ownership structures affect local usage and programming.
Alabama Takes No Steps Forward and Two Steps Back on Immigration State’s Harsh Law Targets Students — This analysis from the Center for American Progress examines the effect of Alabama’s HB 56, one of the most draconian pieces anti-immigrant legislation to be signed into law in recent years, with a focus on what it means for Alabama children and the state’s education system. The report concludes that the law, which is set to take effect on September 1st of this year, is “likely to make the state’s already-struggling school system worse and prove costly to defend.”
State Budget Cuts in the New Fiscal Year Are Unnecessarily Harmful — This detailed and extensive analysis of 47 state budgets from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals that at least 38 states will drastically cut funding for K-12 education, higher education, health care, and other essential services in their budgets for fiscal year 2012, which began on July 1st — hitting children, low-income families, and other vulnerable populations harder than in any year since the Great Recession began. The study paints a bleak picture for what the state budget cuts will mean for the national economy in the coming fiscal year, noting that they “will slow the nation’s economic recovery and undermine efforts to create jobs.”
The Good Jobs Deficit: A Closer Look at Recent Job Loss and Job Growth Trends Using Occupational Data — This update to a National Employment Law Project report released earlier this year finds that job growth is even more lopsided toward low-wage jobs than previously reported. Since the Recession ended, there has been a net loss of higher-wage jobs, and employment in lower-wage jobs is outpacing middle-income jobs by nearly three to one. The result is an overall decline in real income, but particularly among those in lower-wage jobs — contributing strongly to record levels of income disparity and what researchers term a good jobs deficit.
Local Media Ownership and Media Quality — The Federal Communications Commission funded this statistical analysis of how various media ownership structures affect local usage and programing. There were three policy goals to the FCC’s Review of Media Ownership Rules: gauging competition as measured by local media usage, studying the relationship between local media ownership and local news programming, and measuring the correlation of ownership diversity and media quality. Being evaluated were FCC rules against co-ownership of an area’s newspaper and broadcast channels, limits on ownership of local television channels, and co-ownership of local radio and television stations. Newspaper sales tend to be far more strongly correlated with increased voter turnout than television news programming, so the drop off in newspaper sales over the past few years is alarming from a civic engagement perspective. However, as this analysis of 210 local media markets based on data from the FCC and Nielsen Media Research Galaxy ProFile shows, there is little or no evidence that local media’s ownership structure influences competition or local programming content or quality.
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