by Alex Meneses Miyashita
State lawmakers have introduced more than 1,000 immigration bills so far this year’ which more than doubles the amount of immigration legislation introduced at the state level in 2006, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
It claims there are at least 1,169 bills and resolutions which have been introduced this year.
This far into the calendar year 12 months ago the number of bills introduced was about two-thirds less.
In all of 2006, 570 immigration bills were introduced. So far, 57 bills have passed.
The NCSL says these trends reflect the need to address immigration reform upon the absence of federal action.
“Washington’s inability to reach consensus has forced states to roll up their sleeves and get the job done,” stated NCSL president Leticia Van de Putte.
The conference is pressing the federal government to act on immigration reform.
“States can only do so much,” Van de Putte stated. “It’s like we’re trying to scale a 12foot wall with a step stool. The federal government must fix and fund the problem, now.”
Funding concerns have driven 17 states to pass resolutions against the REAL ID Act of 2005, which sets national standards for driver’s licenses and requires all applicants to prove legal status.
New York State Assemblyman Fé1ix Ortiz, also president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, told Weekly Report in February that it would cost his state alone some $200 million to implement the law—about f ve times what was federally appropriated.
“We are not getting a mandate imposed on us without funding,” he said.
Latino and civil rights groups claim the law would harm undocumented immigrants. While several of the bills listed by the NCSL in its preliminary analysis would include certain benefits to undocumented immigrants, the great majority of the legislative proposals would penalize them.
The state bills most commonly range from restricting services for undocumented immigrants, penalizing employers for hiring them, allowing state and local police to enter a federal program to enforce immigration law and requiring proof of citizenship to vote, among others.
Legislation extending benefits to undocumented immigrants commonly range from granting them driving certificates and in-state school tuition and funding English language learning programs.
Oklahoma, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee have introduced comprehensive proposals as defined by the NCSL. These address several elements and target un documented immigrants and employers who hire them.
Most recently, the Oklahoma state Senate passed 41-6 legislation which has been reported as one of the country’s most restrictive bills against undocumented immigrants.
It penalizes employers hiring them, criminalizes harboring or sheltering them, strips public benefits away from them and allows local police to enter a federal program to enforce immigration law.
Sen. James Williamson, the author of the bill, stated it was “a fair, even-handed approach to problems Oklahoma is facing as a result of illegal immigration.”
Opponents offer an alternative view. They call it mean in spirit.
Additional preliminary findings of the NOSL report are available at www.ncsl.org.