State lawmakers across the U.S. are increasingly stepping into the void created by the failure of Congress to approve sweeping changes to immigration policy, a new report finds.
Legislatures have passed bills dealing with immigration issues including employment, health care, driver’s licenses and human trafficking — creating a sometimes uneven patchwork quilt of immigration law across the country.
Arkansas approved a law barring state agencies from contracting with businesses that hire illegal immigrants. Louisiana has a new law barring the state from issuing driver’s licenses to foreigners until their criminal background has been checked. Oregon made it illegal for anyone other than lawyers to perform immigration consultation work.
In the first six months of the year, 171 immigration bills became law in 41 states. That’s more than double the 84 laws approved in all of 2006, according to the report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, being released Monday at the group’s annual meeting in Boston.
More than half of the states have considered bills seeking to toughen or clarify laws related to driver’s licenses or other identification. Nineteen have studied immigration laws that would affect the ability of immigrants to find jobs.
While the states have been taking action, Congress failed this summer to pass President Bush’s immigration plan, which would have legalized as many as 12 million unlawful immigrants while fortifying the border.
Though immigration previously was largely a concern of border states, it has quickly become a national concern, and lawmakers in all 50 states are weighing legislation this year, according to Sheri Steisel, NCSL immigration policy director.
“Given the absence of federal consensus of national immigration reform, state legislators are stepping into the void