States Go Wild with Immigration Laws

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May 23, 2011; Source: National Conference of State Legislatures | In the Spring 2009 issue of Nonprofit Quarterly magazine, we focused on nonprofits providing services and support to immigrants. In the first quarter of 2011, the 50 states and Puerto Rico saw 1,537 bills and resolutions introduced about immigrants and refugees compared to 1,180 introduced in the first quarter of 2010. Of those 1,500 actions, 26 states enacted 63 laws and adopted 78 resolutions, plus one bill was vetoed in New Jersey.

What’s new this year is immigrant laws related to health reform. Most of the health related bills require that participants in state health benefit exchanges be U.S. citizens or documented immigrants. Utah enacted several laws addressing immigration employment, identification and verification, public benefits, and law enforcement. These laws precede Georgia’s enactment of Arizona-type immigration enforcement legislation (HB87) as well as Maryland’s DREAM Act (SB 167).

Proposed State Legislation by Policy Arena, First Quarter 2011 and 2010

For nonprofits, 45 introduced bills include funding for refugee resettlement, immigrant integration, job training, ESL classes, and health and education services for migrant workers. California actually enacted a law providing funding for the development and care of children of migrant workers.

Arkansas, Illinois, and Nebraska enacted laws requiring legal status for immigrants to participate in health benefit programs. For immigrants in the U.S., the legal potpourri of state legislation is dismaying. This year, add restrictions on access to health care to the array of state efforts to restrict services for immigrants.—Rick Cohen

  • Sensible Discussion

    Immigration reforms need to address the following issues:

    There needs to be a process for how some illegal immigrants, that are living within the U.S., can become legal, carefully and gradually.
    There needs to be an orderly process with how farm workers can get temporary visas to work legally in the U.S. at jobs Americans don’t want and then return back to their home country.
    The legal immigration of Latin Americans to the U.S. needs to be simpler with less red tape.
    Border security is also important in two ways. To ensure an orderly process occurs for those wanting to enter the country legally with no one jumping the cue. To also stop drugs, terrorists and gangs from entering the country.
    Internal security must be vigilante in ensuring farm laborers and others must be legal and companies who facilitate illegal immigration must receive severe penalties including permanent shut-downs of their enterprise.
    The reforms need to apply differently to the southern border then to the northern border. There are different issues with Mexico than there are with Canada who is the number one trading partner with the U.S. The U.S. could be hurt economically if they are not careful here. To spend the same amount patrolling the northern border would also be a waste of needed resources and hinder commercial trade. People in Canada are not flocking to the U.S. for jobs. They have plenty of well paying jobs in their own country.