April 29, 2010; Source: NCSL News | Many of our colleagues from Arizona are nonplussed with the state’s decision to enact its own, rather draconian law to permit or induce local authorities to go after suspected illegal immigrants. It is shocking to them and to us to see the high proportion of Arizonans (64 percent in a Rasmussen Poll supporting the new immigration law) and the general public (71 percent in an Angus Reid poll said they’d like to have an Arizona-type law enacted in their own states) willing to sign on.
The Arizona law will be challenged in the courts and in the streets, but our question is, what will the other states do? Nonprofit Quarterly devoted an entire issue of the magazine to the topic of nonprofits and immigration reform, so we were interested in the press release from the National Conference of State Legislatures about how this is playing out elsewhere.
According to the NCSL, in the first three months of 2010, there were 1,180 bills and resolutions related to immigrants and refugees considered by state legislatures. Seventy-one laws and 87 resolutions were adopted in 25 states. Compare to the first quarter of 2009, when 1,040 bills and resolutions were considered, and only 35 laws and 40 resolutions enacted. In some cases, the laws are good, such as the law in the state of Washington to improve high school graduation rates of at-risk youth.
Nonetheless, the opening for states like Arizona to enact their own mini-immigration “reform” laws is due in part the inaction at the federal level, from the White House on down. According to a Virginia state senator who co-chairs the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States, “Without Congress and the administration leading the way on immigration reform, states will be forced to make some tough choices as the burden of handling this issue falls onto state lawmakers. Federal immigration reform needs to include immigration enforcement, earned legalization, improved visa processes and an efficient temporary worker program, and impact assistance for states.”
The activist nonprofits we wrote about last year in the Nonprofit Quarterly continue to face a dual challenge—mobilizing to do battle as necessary in the state capitols and pressing election-sensitive national leaders to come to grips with a comprehensive immigration reform law.—Rick Cohen