President Barack Obama kicked off 2014 with a strong statement of support for immigration reform, declaring, “It is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.” In the months since the State of the Union Address, the frustrating stagnation in Congress has led many to become disheartened with the prospect of federal reform. Though a great deal of focus on immigration reform has been at the federal level, states have continued to make progress while the matter is considered by Congress
With the debate in D.C. currently centered around exactly how much more federal budget austerity to enact, and with the budget sequester threatening 750,000 jobs nationwide looking more and more likely to go into effect March 1st, the jobless also continue to be under attack in the states. This week, one state signed devastating cuts to their unemployment insurance system into law, another advanced a restructuring of their system that would endanger their federal funding, and efforts to ban employer discrimination against the jobless ran into the veto pen of a billionaire big-city mayor:
From Missouri to Pennsylvania to D.C., anti-union "right-to-work" laws are still being proposed and debated. Michigan workers continue to fight their law in the courts weeks before it is set to take effect, while workers in nearby states remain prepared for similar legislation to emerge. Meanwhile, an "anti-right-to-work" bill moved forward in Vermont — legislation that would require all workers who receive benefits thanks to a union to pay their fair share.
The same week that both President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators released proposals for comprehensive federal immigration reform, pro-immigrant policies continued to gain traction in the states on issues including tuition equity and driver's licenses for DREAMers. Nearly three years after Arizona passed SB 1070, anti-immigrant forces are clearly finding themselves increasingly isolated at both the state and federal level in 2013:
Governors and lawmakers who call themselves "anti-tax" are kicking off new state legislative sessions by proposing drastic cuts or even the elimination of state income taxes — offset by increases in sales taxes that would hit the middle class and low-income families and which would do nothing to boost state economies:
As voter ID legislation continues to be rammed through state legislatures across the country, conservatives are celebrating passage of these bills, intended to suppress turnout among traditionally progressive constituencies, as a victory. However, no one is actually winning – not minority, low-income, and other historically disenfranchised voters who will be disproportionately affected by the new laws, and certainly not already-squeezed state budgets forced to find millions of dollars to make these bills a reality
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.