National Council of State Legislatures Issues Report on State Immigration Laws

The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) has released a report detailing various immigration-related laws and resolutions passed by state legislatures in the first half of 2012.

Although legislators in 46 states and the District of Columbia introduced 948 bills and resolutions addressing immigrants or refugees in the first six months of 2012, this is actually a significant decrease from the same period in 2011, during which 1,592 such measures were introduced.

The decrease was likely due in part to the then-uncertain status of Arizona’s strict immigration law. Known as SB1070, the law was signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in 2010 and faced immediate widespread protest and a legal challenge by the U.S. Justice Department. However, the law also served as a model for similar legislation in other states. In 2011, five states passed immigration laws similar to those in Arizona.

In June of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. United States invalidated key parts of the law, leaving only the provision that law enforcement officers may inquire about the immigration status of persons detained during a lawful stop. Legal challenges are still pending against immigration laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah on issues not decided in Arizona v. United States.

Of the 948 measures introduced from January to June 2012, state legislatures passed 114 bills into law and adopted 92 resolutions, a decrease of 20 percent from the same period in 2011.

State legislation related to immigration varied widely in scope and purpose. The most common focus of legislation was law enforcement and identification or driver’s licenses, accounting for 18 percent and 11 percent, respectively, of the total. States enacted immigration-related laws which focused on firearms, drug trafficking and domestic violence, as well as legislation which addressed eligibility requirements for state-issued identification documents.

Budget-related immigration laws were the second most common type of state legislation, making up approximately one-quarter of the total. States passed laws to fund English as a Second Language Programs, refugee programs and naturalization.

Six states also passed laws to address employers’ use of the federal E-Verify system, which allows companies to check the immigration status of employees. E-Verify is voluntary for most employers, but states may mandate that it be used.

Omnibus immigration laws such as the one enacted in Arizona saw a marked decline in the first half of 2012, as states awaited the ruling in Arizona v. United States.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com