As another round of state legislatures begin to wrap up their 2011 sessions and a flurry of positive action on immigration continues to gain momentum, it is becoming increasingly clear that anti-immigrant bills have failed to gain much traction at all in state legislatures across the nation. Even Arizona, which led the anti-immigrant charge by passing the now-infamous SB 1070 last year, is now reconsidering the wisdom of its actions and surveying the resulting destruction of its economy. Arizona’s legislature killed numerous additional anti-immigrant proposals earlier this session after a group of sixty CEOs of companies sent a letter to State President Russell Pearce outlining the devastating effect SB 1070 and the resulting boycotts have had on the state, including over 3,000 lost jobs in the tourism industry alone.
On Tuesday, after nine hours of floor debate, the Connecticut Senate passed legislation granting undocumented students in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. The bill, which passed by a 21-14 margin, now heads to Gov. Dannel Malloy who has indicated he will sign it. After the bill’s passage, Malloy said, “This bill isn’t controversial, it’s common sense...”
On Tuesday, President Obama reiterated his hope for comprehensive immigration reform in a speech delivered in El Paso, Texas. Yet while federal reform remains stalled, many states have continued to push forward with advancing common sense approaches to immigration policy. In just the last few days alone, there has been a flurry of positive activity as states reject the destructive politics of scapegoating and division exemplified by Arizona’s SB1070 in favor of pragmatic solutions that will grow their economies and keep their communities safe.
The state House of Representatives Thursday approved a bill to give undocumented residents in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, but advocates say they fear eligible students may be scared off by the requirement that they admit their illegal status.
Nineteen state legislatures have considered Arizona-style proposals this year, according to Suman Raghunathan at Progressive States Network. Ten of these proposals have been defeated, but they remain alive in several states, including South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma.
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.
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.