Over a year after the passage of SB 1070, what happened at the ballot box in Arizona this November was indicative a national backlash against not just anti-immigrant policies, but similar extremist overreach in state legislators on a number of issues. The verdict that Arizonans handed down on State Senator Russell Pearce this November was an historic one, as he became the first state lawmaker in Arizona history and the first Senate President of any state to be recalled. His support for extremist policies – including his close ties with the controversial, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council – resulted in a bipartisan group of activists leading an ultimately successful charge to rein in his radical agenda.
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.
Beginning almost immediately with the gaveling-in of sessions in January, newly empowered conservatives unleashed a torrent of attacks aimed directly at workers, women, children, immigrants, historically disenfranchised populations, and the very existence of the middle class. Coordinated multi-state efforts like the assault on collective bargaining, extremist restrictions on reproductive rights, broad Arizona-style attacks on immigrants, and attempts to institute new barriers to voting through Voter ID requirements all repeatedly made national news.
The state House of Representatives Thursday approved a bill to give undocumented residents in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, but advocates say they fear eligible students may be scared off by the requirement that they admit their illegal status.