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New Year’s Resolutions: Immigration and the States
By: Tessa Winkler*
As January comes to an end, many of us disregard our New Year’s resolutions to practice healthier eating habits and exercise more often. However, for newly elected government officials, 2011 has seen the fulfillment of campaign promises to challenge state immigration policies. In light of federal inaction concerning immigration reform in 2010, state legislators have already introduced over 20 immigration-related bills.
State representatives around the country have proposed multi-issue legislation surrounding the identification, detention, employment, and education of undocumented immigrants. While some initiatives echo Arizona’s restrictive immigration law, passed last year, others are piecemeal efforts to pass immigration restrictionist regulations. Not to be forgotten, there are some efforts to promote immigrant integration into communities.
Immediately upon convening, the Kentucky Legislature and state Senate approved an immigration enforcement bill resembling Arizona’s SB 1070. This legislation allows local police officers to question the immigration status of a person on grounds of “reasonable suspicion.” The bill also criminalizes the smuggling of undocumented immigrants and restricts the ability of local governments to hamper the most stringent enforcement of federal immigration laws. The immigration discussion is sure to continue as the bill moves to Kentucky’s more immigrant-friendly state House of Representatives.
Also, earlier this month, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the abolition of sanctuary cities as an emergency item to be addressed by the Texas Senate and House of Representatives. Similar to Kentucky’s immigration enforcement bill, the elimination of sanctuary cities would permit Texas police to assist federal immigration authorities in the detention and removal of undocumented immigrants.
Another enforcement tool that has made headlines in the new-year is the use of E-Verify to uncover the immigration statuses of potential employees. On January 4, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order mandating the E-Verify process for all potential state employees and state contractors. The next day, however, saw the repeal of an Executive Order, similarly requiring the use E-Verify by state departments and its vendors, by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Last week, members of Virginia’s House of Delegates announced plans to pursue at least 16 measures intended to establish the E-Verify Program along with other immigration restrictionist measures. The proposed measures aim to invalidate the drivers licenses of deportees, ban undocumented immigrants from attending public colleges, and tally undocumented children in public schools.
As this new legislative session matures, current policy trends may point toward the introduction of many Arizona-type laws but will surely maintain a focus on the divisive issues of identification, law-enforcement employment and education.
CLINIC remains committed to advocating for humane and just immigration policy. For more information on CLINIC’s advocacy initiatives, please visit: http://cliniclegal.org/programs/center-for-immigrant-rights.
For information on making your own New Year’s Resolutions, visit: http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/index.shtml
*Tessa works with CLINIC’s Advocacy Section
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