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WaPo: Advocates for immigrants turn to state legislatures to block Arizona-style law

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.

States and the Census: Expanding Outreach, Maximizing Federal Funding and Assuring Equal Representation

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 Census.

State Policymakers Need to Respond to Growing Clout of Latino Voters Nationwide

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.  

Covering All Kids: CHIP Reauthorization, Economic Recovery and Immigrant Children's Health Care Coverage

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.

Overview

Many 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 and California 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 status. 
  • 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 efficiently?"
  • In 2007, Rhode Island's HB 5412 provided for assistance to legal immigrants ineligible for federally funded services while its proposed SB 415 would extend health coverage to children who do not meet citizenship requirements.

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New PSN Report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed

Today, the Progressive States Network is releasing a new report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed: Positive Integration Policies by States Still Far Outweigh Punitive Policies Aimed at New Immigrants.   The Executive Summary is available online, as well as the full report in PDF and HTML format.