Advocates demanding stricter rules against illegal immigration -- including those backing Arizona's new law clamping down on undocumented immigrants -- have long argued that state lawmakers have been forced to act because of Congress's reluctance to take the lead.
But with little sign that Congress will act on comprehensive immigration reform this year, advocates for immigrants are also taking matters into their own hands. Like their political opponents, they have turned to their state legislatures to fight back.
In states from Pennsylvania to Utah, a battle of bills has been taking place between those who want to reproduce the Arizona law, which hands police more power to detain anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, and those who want to extend further rights to immigrants.
This Dispatch will outline strategies that include crafting
outreach and education initiatives that integrate city and state
government agencies with grassroots organizations and local media to
ensure 'Hard-to-Count' residents are included in the Census; enacting
state legislation that mandates prisoners are counted in their home
districts rather than in that of their prisons, and proactively
considering principles for redistricting legislative districts that move
beyond uniquely partisan concerns to addressing the needs of district
residents. This Dispatch will also aim to provide some of these
best practices and highlight resources, all with a view toward preparing
states to engage effectively with the 2010 and — looking forward — 2020
A recent report from the advocacy group America’s Voice
highlighted the growing power of Latino voters in the upcoming 2010
elections. Latino voters played a critical role in 2008 to propel
President Obama to victory in several key swing states that previously
trended Republican, including Virginia. Latino voter
registration and turnout rates have exploded over the past few years:
roughly 10 million voted in the 2008 Presidential election alone, a 2.5
million increase from 2004 and 4 million person increase since 2000.
Latino voter registration grew by over 54% between 2000 and 2008, and
turnout grew 64% over the same time period.
This Dispatch outlines the expanded SCHIP program, which is not only important for individual families but also should be a critical part of state economic recovery plans. The new law increases SCHIP funding by $44 billion over the next 5 years. This is on top of the "baseline" of $5 billion annually, bringing the total to $69 billion -- double the amount made available to states in 2008. These billions of dollars represent new health care jobs and spending for states that take full advantage of the program.
states are providing health care to immigrants, both legal and undocumented,
recognizing that long-term investments in education and health care will pay
off with a more skilled and healthy workforce in the future. More than
half of the states spend their own funds to provide services to
at least some immigrants ineligible for federal services.
Illinois' AllKids program extended its coverage
to children of all income levels, regardless of immigration status. It was joined by Massachusetts,
Hawaii, New York
as those states continued to expand health benefits for many immigrant
children. In 2007, the state of Washington extended
health coverage to all children in families up to 250% of the federal
poverty line (moving to 300% in 2009), again, regardless of immigration
In California, even
Republican Governor Schwarzenegger has said he wants to include all
undocumented immigrants in any plan for universal access to health care,
because as he argued in a speech announcing his own
plan in January, "the decision for my team was, do we treat them in
emergency rooms at the highest cost available or we do it right and do it
In 2007, Rhode Island's HB 5412 provided for
assistance to legal immigrants ineligible for federally funded services while
its proposed SB
extend health coverage to children who do not meet citizenship