The steady drumbeat of states recognizing the error of enforcement-only anti-immigrant legislation continues. This week, Iowa and Kansas join the list of nine states to date (including Virginia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, and Washington) that have defeated their broad (and misguided) anti-immigrant bills this legislative session.
In recent weeks, a bipartisan approach to immigration policy in Utah has gained widespread national attention as a collaborative, pragmatic effort with the active involvement of many different stakeholders and communities. But late last week, months of hard work on the part of Utah state legislators in pursuit of inventive and effective immigration solutions ended in disappointment as a trio of misguided immigration bills were quickly introduced and passed by Utah’s state legislature with little opportunity for public input or debate. Despite the good intentions of so many, the results of this effort do nothing to address the need for common sense immigration policies that expand opportunity for all, and they are not a model for other states to follow.
While a few states (notably South Carolina) are coming perilously close to passing proposals based on Arizona’s now-infamous anti-immigrant SB 1070, a growing number have shifted gears in 2011 toward a more measured, practical, and progressive approach to state immigration policy. These states are reconsidering the wisdom of entertaining, let alone enacting, anti-immigrant bills that will only increase costs for cash-strapped states at a time when they are confronting historic budget deficits and painful decisions on how to trim -- not expand -- their state budgets.
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.
On Tuesday, in addition to electing federal, state, and local officials to a new term, voters in 37 states will decide on approximately 160 ballot measures, including statewide initiatives, proposed amendments to state constitutions, and legislative and popular referenda. The total number of ballot measures across the nation is down this year from recent highs in midterm election years - according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, there were 224 ballot measures nationwide in 2002 and 226 in 2006.