In contrast to the conservative policies we've seen move in the states over the past two years, 2013 has so far seen at least a handful of states where progressive policies are being introduced and enacted across a range of issue areas. With legislative sessions about midway through, here's a roundup of the policies moving in a couple of those states -- Minnesota and Colorado:
On Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his second term agenda in a State of the Union address that detailed specific policy proposals across a range of issue areas. But even as national conversations around the minimum wage, immigration, gun violence prevention, and early education began to get louder in the wake of the President's speech this week, states were already getting a jump start on many of these issues. As Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, Chair of the Board of PSN, said in a response to the State of the Union this week, "state legislators across the nation know they do not need to wait for Washington to act."
The same week that both President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators released proposals for comprehensive federal immigration reform, pro-immigrant policies continued to gain traction in the states on issues including tuition equity and driver's licenses for DREAMers. Nearly three years after Arizona passed SB 1070, anti-immigrant forces are clearly finding themselves increasingly isolated at both the state and federal level in 2013:
Last week, a federal district court in Phoenix issued a mixed ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070. Immigrant communities declared partial victory with Judge Susan Bolton's decision to strike down the portion of the law that makes it a crime to drive, live with, or engage in everyday activities with an undocumented individual. This means Arizonans of good faith who interact with or provide spiritual support to an undocumented friend or neighbor no longer have to worry about getting slapped with criminal penalties or arrest. Several SB 1070 copycats — including laws in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — feature similar provisions which have also been blocked by federal courts.
(With 2012 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this is the fourth in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different policy areas across the fifty states.)
In 2012, state legislatures saw a dramatic decrease in anti-immigrant proposals and embraced a growing consensus around common sense, pro-immigrant policies in states across the country. This legislative session illustrated the decreased popularity of broad anti-immigrant proposals, as well as growing interest in targeted campaigns to introduce pro-immigrant policies, especially in states with growing immigrant populations. These policies, which underline the importance of cultivating all of our nation’s talented youth, protecting hard-won wages, and ensuring the safety of our communities, once again outnumbered misguided (and failed) attempts to enshrine racial profiling and deprive crucial industries of workers this year.
Two important developments in immigration policy from the federal government also shifted the landscape and conversation in the states. President Obama’s surprise June 15th Deferred Action announcement, which shields some undocumented youth from deportation and allows them to work legally in the United States, opens up a clear path for talented immigrant students to contribute to state economies once they receive a college degree. The announcement deflates traditional opposition to state tuition equity proposals, which previously branded the policies as impractical because they did not grant work authorization to undocumented college graduates. Now thousands of students accepted through the program will likely be able to legally work and in turn contribute to state economies upon graduating from college. The development ratchets up pressure on states to pass tuition equity proposals as eligible students stand ready to pay their way into higher education systems, which continue to suffer from dramatically decreased funding due to the slow economic recovery and long-standing budget deficits.
The Supreme Court also narrowed the role that states can play in immigration enforcement when they decisively struck down Arizona’s disruptive and economically devastating SB 1070. The Court underlined the federal government’s role in determining and enforcing immigration policy by striking down three of SB 1070’s four provisions while also sending a strong signal that the remaining provision, Section 2(b), will be susceptible to future challenges because it will inevitably encourage racial profiling. The three provisions that were struck down — prohibiting undocumented immigrants from seeking work, allowing warrantless arrests of immigrants for the suspicion of a deportable offense, and making it a state crime to not carry immigration papers — emphasized the role that the federal government must play in immigration enforcement and highlighted the growing reality that Arizona’s unconstitutional approach is far outside the mainstream of American values.
The Supreme Court’s decision notwithstanding, anti-immigrant forces still plan to reproduce the flawed “self-deportation” model in as many states as possible. The principal architect of SB 1070, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, not only led the charge to enshrine the harshest anti-immigrant plank in the national Republican Party’s history, but also announced that he intends to push the “papers please” 2(b) provision in Missouri, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Oklahoma and other states. [Read More]
Even before President Obama’s announcement that “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) would protect some DREAM-eligible youth from deportation, legislation that allows qualifying undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates was already gaining momentum in the states. DACA recipients will receive a two-year reprieve from deportation, a renewable two-year work permit, and, depending on the state, eligibility to receive driver’s licenses.
In a big step for these aspiring citizens, students began submitting applications for the program beginning August 15th. The program also re-emphasizes the need for states to pass tuition equity laws, ensuring that these talented students can access higher education and continue contributing to their states. DACA also neutralizes a common anti-immigrant argument against tuition equity laws: that allowing immigrant students access to higher education would be wasteful because they would be unauthorized to work in their states.
Twelve states already have tuition equity laws on the books, with an additional ten states moving the proposal this year. [Read More]
Efforts to make immigration enforcement sensible and practical have turned into a powerful bill in California called the TRUST Act which could serve as a model for other states looking to move past the expensive and burdensome detention and deportation dragnet. After a 2-year campaign and strenuous efforts by advocates, the bill is still waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature by September 30th.
The TRUST Act’s focus on building trust between community members and law enforcement statewide by prioritizing violent and serious criminals instead of casting a wide, expensive, and counter-productive dragnet has spurred many to call it the “anti-Arizona” approach. Governors in New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois challenged their state’s involvement in Secure Communities, highlighting the gap between S-Comm’s stated goals and the actual devastation the program has wrought on immigrant communities nationwide through widespread deportations. [Read More]
A hot-button issue in previous years, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants have the potential to stimulate the economy by allowing immigrants to drive to work and contribute to state economies while also keeping our roads safe. Unlicensed drivers also increase costs for the entire pool of drivers. When New York considered a driver’s license proposal in 2006 the State Department of Insurance estimated that premiums would have saved New York drivers $120 million, a 34% savings. [Read More]
Efforts to impose the flawed, federal E-Verify program on states have mostly flopped in 2012. E-Verify is a federal pilot employment-verification system that filters a worker’s identification information through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases — in theory flagging as ineligible any worker whose information doesn’t match up with federal records.
After an ascendant couple of years for the policy, which has become highly controversial due its high error rate and job-killing tendencies, 2012 saw proposals to enact or expand mandatory E-Verify fail in 23 states. [Read More]
Another important legislative avenue in protecting immigrant workers garnered momentum in 2012, with promises of even bigger action in 2013. Proposals that seek to enforce wage and hour laws, enhance workplace protections, and crack down on employers seeking to duck paying payroll taxes by misclassifying full-time workers as independent contractors play a strong role in protecting workers, both immigrant workers. [Read More]
In the last session, several states also attempted to address their states’ need for immigrant workers, through a variety of complicated and non-traditional methods. Though none of the proposals passed, legislators in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Vermont all proposed some version of a state-based worker authorization models. [Read More]
A federal district court in Atlanta struck down major provisions of state anti-immigrant laws in both Alabama and Georgia. The decisions, following June's Supreme Court decision striking down provisions of Arizona's SB 1070, send a strong warning to states considering similar measures. Progressive States Network’s Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships, Suman Raghunathan, issued the following statement following today’s rulings: