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.
While the anti-immigrant rhetoric of this fall's campaigns may point to more shortsighted state proposals in 2011, states and municipalities have already begun expanding educational access for undocumented students to attend state universities and community colleges. These state and local efforts will hopefully build even more support at the federal level as Congressional leaders with President Obama and Speaker Pelosi's support prepare to re-introduce the DREAM Act in the upcoming lame-duck session.
Last week's midterm elections herald the possibility of a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping many statehouses, and underscore the need for common-sense, progressive state immigration policy that expands opportunity for all residents, immigrant and native-born alike, and welcomes immigrant contributions to state and local economies and communities.
Federal immigration officials recently reported that they deported a record 392,892 immigrants over the last year - a figure significantly higher than during the last year of President George W. Bush's term and the second straight year the nation has experienced an increase in deportations. Only half of those deported - 195,772 - were convicted of crimes, meaning roughly half of those who were deported committed no crime at all.
The dream of attaining a college education was once again deferred for thousands of immigrant children across the nation, as a critical Defense Authorization Bill that included an amendment to enact the DREAM Act failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
To date, legislators in up to 22 states have expressed interest in introducing legislation based upon Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, despite a current federal court injunction barring implementation of many of its most draconian provisions.