Lawmakers in 46 states and the District of Columbia met for legislative session this year. Between January and August, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. tracked more than 400 proposed laws in 42 states related to immigration. Of those, 172 bills have died, 75 were enacted or adopted; with the rest still pending, including those waiting for the governor’s action. During this period last year, 49 states and the District of Columbia enacted more than 300 immigration-related laws, addressing issues including sanctuary city policies, refugee resettlement, employment verification and more. Below is a summary of the top issues state lawmakers addressed in the first half of 2018.
Sanctuary City Policies
Twelve states proposed about 25 pieces of legislation involving sanctuary city policies. These laws will prevent or allow, to varying degrees, county, state, city or town employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status when accessing certain resources from the state. Most proposed policies, such as those in New Jersey, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming attempted to prevent state and local government from adopting sanctuary city policies. The Virginia bill, HB 1257, passed in both the house and senate, but was vetoed by the state’s newly elected democratic governor, Ralph Northam. Additional language in similar bills proposed in Colorado and Wyoming required a report from local government certifying how it complied with the state’s anti-sanctuary city law. Both the Colorado and Wyoming bills were unsuccessful. However, Tennessee enacted HB 2315, prohibiting sanctuary city policies and threatening to withhold state funds from localities for violation.
Legislation regarding local officials’ participation in immigration enforcement was again a hot-button issue among state lawmakers this year. With more than 60 bills proposed, many focused on requiring local police to comply with federal officials to support their immigration enforcement efforts, locally. Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oklahoma were among the states that considered provisions along these lines. Iowa enacted SF 481, which requires localities to comply with Immigration and Custom Enforcement detainer requests to hold individuals suspected of civil immigration violation in jail for up to 48 hours to allow ICE agents to take them into custody. The law punishes non-compliant cities by denying them state funds. The Catholic Conference in Iowa opposed the bill, stating that it would promote a disproportional enforcement of immigration laws locally and lead to separation of families.
Meanwhile, states such as California, Colorado, Florida and Hawaii proposed laws that were the opposite of Iowa’s. California enacted AB 110, which prohibits state agencies from contracting with federal officials to detain immigrants. The Hawaii bill, HB 1994, prohibited state agencies from complying with ICE detainer requests or providing non-public information about anyone to federal officials without a judicial warrant. This bill died in the House Finance Committee. Florida proposed HB 1333 to bar state and local employees, including school administrators, from using their resources for immigration enforcement. It would also bar those employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status who is seeking community services or benefits. This bill failed to in the House Criminal Justice Committee.
Immigration-related employment remains a popular issue among legislators. During this session, more than 20 states proposed laws related to this topic. Most measures focused on banning employers from hiring unauthorized workers. Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri and North Carolina were some of the states that considered this provision and required employers to participate in the federal E-Verify program. The Iowa bill, SF 412, would have imposed fines on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. This bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Mississippi bill, SB 2086, would go as far as to impose criminal penalties on an employee who works in the state without authorization. This bill also died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Approximately 12 states proposed nearly 30 laws addressing immigrants’ ability to access higher education. Colorado enacted SB 87, which waives the one-year residency requirement for in-state tuition for refugees and special immigrants who settle in the state. The state of Washington enacted HB 1488 to offer financial aid and scholarships to qualifying undocumented students. Oregon enacted SB 1563, which gives qualifying non-citizens access to scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid at public universities and colleges. In Connecticut, the governor approved SB 4 to allow all qualifying residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for financial aid at state colleges and universities. Mississippi proposed HB 33 that would have allowed undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at local community colleges. The bill died in the House Committee on Universities and Colleges.
Not all proposed laws related to education were friendly. Arizona and Indiana each proposed legislation that would bar undocumented immigrants from receiving in-state tuition. Missouri and New Hampshire also proposed bills that would deny immigrants financial assistance to pay for higher education. All of these proposals died in committees.
Several states, including Florida, Indiana and Virginia, proposed laws regarding driver’s licenses to qualifying immigrants. The Virginia bill, SB 621, would offer licenses to undocumented immigrants who paid taxes in the state for at least a year, but the bill failed to pass. Similarly, the Indiana bill, SB 228, would provide driver’s licenses to those who cannot prove lawful status under the stipulation that it may not be used for federal purposes, such as boarding a plane or entering a federal government building. This bill also failed to pass before the state’s legislative session adjourned. However, in New York, two bills were proposed to protect immigrants from losing their drivers’ licenses due to DACA and Temporary Protected Status termination. Both SB 7559 and SB 7570 are still pending in New York’s Senate Committee on Transportation.
In Colorado, lawmakers enacted SB 108. It clarifies existing law, which allows undocumented immigrants to use their Individual Tax Identification Number, or ITIN, instead of their social security numbers to apply for driver’s licenses. Local advocates say this language would have excluded certain immigrants, such as DACA recipients and TPS holders, from keeping their licenses once their protection terminates because they have social security numbers and not ITIN numbers. The new law includes social security numbers as acceptable documentation for driver’s license applicants. Additionally, it allows immigrants to renew driver’s licenses online or through the mail instead of in-person. Advocates are also pleased with this change because previously immigrants would have to drive for hours to the nearest motor vehicles location in order to renew their license, often missing days of work.
Not all states took a positive approach to laws regarding driver’s licenses. Tennessee enacted HB 222, which requires that even if an undocumented person has a driver’s license from another state, the person must still prove that they are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or have other lawful status in order to obtain a Tennessee state driver’s license.
Refugee resettlement was not at the forefront of the legislative term this year. Roughly, eight states considered 14 pieces of legislation regarding the resettlement of refugees locally. Mississippi proposed SB 2071 that would force government agencies to register refugees they resettle in the state within 30 days and hold these agencies responsible for crimes resettled refugees commit. This bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Missouri also considered an anti-refugee resettlement bill, HB 1754, which explicitly prohibits the placement of refugees in the state without the general assembly’s approval. This bill failed in the Special Committee on Homeland Security. South Dakota also failed to pass its anti-refugee resettlement bill SB 200, which barred the resettlement of refugees from any of the countries affected by the travel ban, unless the state’s legislature consents to do so. It died in the Committee for State Affairs.
California, Illinois, Indiana and New York proposed legislation about professional licenses. In Indiana, SB 3109 would prohibit state agencies from denying a license to applicants solely based on their immigration status, and would allow immigrants to apply for licenses using their ITIN number if they do not have a Social Security Number. This bill is eligible for the governor’s action. New York lawmakers proposed SB 8374 to allow DACA recipients to receive professional licenses as long as they meet the other requirements for the profession.
More than a dozen states introduced more than 40 resolutions on various immigration issues. California adopted SJR 17, which condemned the Trump administration for ending TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan, and urged Congress to pass a bipartisan solution to protect individuals from these countries who would lose their status. New Jersey adopted SR 17 urging Congress to put in place a legislative solution for DACA recipients. Colorado passed a similar resolution, HR 1004, recognizing the need for Congress to protect all Dreamers. Nebraska passed LR 26, opposing any federal action that would rescind DACA. However, Tennessee adopted HJR 741, expressing strong support for the border wall, urging Congress to provide funding for its construction.
Referencing immigration measures CLINIC tracked in the 2018 state legislative session.