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.
As states continue to reject misguided anti-immigrant SB 1070 proposals — sixteen have defeated or tabled broad immigration enforcement bills this session alone — governors are joining the chorus of state lawmakers speaking out against expensive and ineffective immigration enforcement programs. A groundswell of opposition to Secure Communities, the flawed federal immigration enforcement program, is emerging in state after state. In the last month alone, three states — Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts — have withdrawn wholesale from participating the program. Their decisions have been applauded by law enforcement professionals who note police officers' lack of interest in enforcing federal immigration laws and the damage caused to community policing practices when local law enforcement become de facto immigration agents.
In this week’s PSN research roundup: A Democracy Corps poll and memo on how to talk about the economy with the Rising American Electorate, a National Foundation for Women Legislators and National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women study on how broadband policy can help alleviate women’s disproportionate burdens, an analysis by USPIRG on corporate tax avoidance, a scorecard by Rock The Vote ranking voting laws as they affect young people in all 50 states, and a Drum Major I
On Tuesday, President Obama reiterated his hope for comprehensive immigration reform in a speech delivered in El Paso, Texas. Yet while federal reform remains stalled, many states have continued to push forward with advancing common sense approaches to immigration policy. In just the last few days alone, there has been a flurry of positive activity as states reject the destructive politics of scapegoating and division exemplified by Arizona’s SB1070 in favor of pragmatic solutions that will grow their economies and keep their communities safe.
In recent weeks, a bipartisan approach to immigration policy in Utah has gained widespread national attention as a collaborative, pragmatic effort with the active involvement of many different stakeholders and communities. But late last week, months of hard work on the part of Utah state legislators in pursuit of inventive and effective immigration solutions ended in disappointment as a trio of misguided immigration bills were quickly introduced and passed by Utah’s state legislature with little opportunity for public input or debate. Despite the good intentions of so many, the results of this effort do nothing to address the need for common sense immigration policies that expand opportunity for all, and they are not a model for other states to follow.
With the failure of the DREAM Act in the US Senate in December 2010, it is likely that any and all developments in immigration policy will occur at the state level. As anti-immigrant efforts in the states become more and more extremist, an increasing number of members of state legislatures are focusing on common-sense, practical approaches to immigration policy.