Proposals to increase educational access for students (particularly the undocumented) continue to advance in state legislatures nationwide, even as they are being upheld in the nation’s courts. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced and upheld California’s tuition equity law, the nation’s oldest and one of the strongest tuition equity models nationwide, by choosing not to consider a challenge to the law. California’s law, AB 540, passed a decade ago and was already unanimously upheld by the State’s Supreme Court last November.
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 In the last month alone, three states — Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts — have withdrawn wholesale from participating the program.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.
As another round of state legislatures begin to wrap up their 2011 sessions and a flurry of positive action on immigration continues to gain momentum, it is becoming increasingly clear that anti-immigrant bills have failed to gain much traction at all in state legislatures across the nation. Even Arizona, which led the anti-immigrant charge by passing the now-infamous SB 1070 last year, is now reconsidering the wisdom of its actions and surveying the resulting destruction of its economy. Arizona’s legislature killed numerous additional anti-immigrant proposals earlier this session after a group of sixty CEOs of companies sent a letter to State President Russell Pearce outlining the devastating effect SB 1070 and the resulting boycotts have had on the state, including over 3,000 lost jobs in the tourism industry alone.
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.
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.