A Flood of State Immigration Laws in 2013


January 20, 2014; National Conference of State Legislatures

Los Angeles resident Alva Alvarez relies on large doses of over-the-counter medicines purchased at supermarkets because she doesn’t have medical insurance coverage due to her status as an undocumented immigrant. Cleveland resident Ricardo Ramos has been an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. for 16 years, but now faces deportation by immigration authorities, separating him from his wife and three children, all born in the U.S. and therefore U.S. citizens.

The day-to-day lives of Alvarez and Ramos and millions like them will be affected by some of the 184 immigration-related laws and 253 immigration-related resolutions that were passed by state legislatures in 2013. With immigration reform stalled in Congress, the action has increasingly shifted to the state level, meaning that nonprofits have to be paying maximal attention to what’s going on in their state capitals. On immigration, laws passed by state legislatures increased 18 percent in 2013.

NCSL notes that big omnibus immigration enforcement bills similar to Arizona’s SB1070 “largely disappeared” from legislative dockets in 2013, as comparable 2011 laws in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah were quickly challenged in court. The trend for state laws in general seems to be toward greater accommodations and rights for “unauthorized residents.” Ten states extended driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and four states joined eleven others in offering undocumented immigrants in-state college tuition. In California, for example, the legislature passed one law that prohibited local law enforcement from holding immigrants for federal deportation if they were only arrested for minor crimes and were eligible for release. These state efforts head in the direction of immigration reforms that Congress could and should be enacting for a more rational and decent approach to the treatment of the more than 10 million undocumented immigrants in the nation. In fact, 11 of the resolutions passed by state legislatures called on Congress to get off the dime and do something about comprehensive immigration reform.

Filling the federal vacuum, states are continuing to pursue immigration-related legislation in 2014. New York State is considering tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants, though a handful of conservative Democrats might be an obstacle to enactment. A similar “Dream Act” kind of bill has passed the House of Representatives of the state of Washington, but is stuck in a recalcitrant Senate. Even the Florida legislature might get around to approving in-state tuition this year. All well and good, but these statutes are far from the national comprehensive immigration reform that over 10 million undocumented immigrants need and deserve.

For Alva Alvarez, California in 2013 authorized the targeting of “mixed” status immigration families for Medi-Cal outreach and enrollment, though the state hasn’t yet enacted State Senator Ricardo Lara’s bill to extend Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented immigrants overall. The only immigration-related action of the Ohio state legislature dealing with the state’s medical assistance program for immigrants was vetoed, so Ramos’s situation is still going to be tenuous. Fifty states enacting immigration laws doesn’t quite do the trick of fixing nation’s challenge of welcoming and accommodating people from other countries seeking a better life in the U.S.—Rick Cohen

  • hugh janus

    Common sense? right wrong who really cares? nobody but you. If no one does something about the ideas and ideals of yours YOU should be the one to step up and do something and not just wait for every one else to make the first move about what they themselves don’t care for. If it doesn’t affect them in a negative way…. the issue will be just as dead as it is now and it still will be then.

    Now, what the F**k am I talking about!!!!!? right?

    Well, it’s simple. I’m talking about immigration reform.
    It’s been decades since the last immigration amnesty program and now you must know this….. THERE WILL BE NO IMMIGRATION REFORM!!!!!!!!!!

    It’s more than obvious.
    The first priority for the United States congress was, and obviously they failed, to get Mr. Barak Obama out of office and they made it very clear on TV and know this because I watched it and listened to the words of Mr John boehner.
    I think it’s stupid that we now seem to go backwards instead of forward and in my opinion, we need new minds in congress. We need a Congress that it’s from the people and works for the people, not just for themselves.

    Think about the health care law.
    Think about the past government shut down.
    Really do think about the little things that have affected us greatly in a seriously negative way.
    Was all that necessary?
    NO. It wasn’t.

    Now think about this for a moment…. If the government don’t care about it’s own citizens, what makes think? or brought you to believe they will care about the rest of the people who are not citizens and that are here illegally?

    They don’t care but, YOU DO, or some of you that is.