A total of 27 laws related to immigration and employment were enacted in 18 states in 2011, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That is on par with 2010, when 27 employment-related immigration laws were enacted in 20 states.
In addition, five states—Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah—enacted omnibus laws in 2011, following the example set by Arizona in 2010, NCSL said. Among other things, these laws impose E-Verify requirements, make it a state offense to fail to carry alien registration documents, and give state police broader powers to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful stop.
Court challenges based on preemption and civil rights have been filed against all five of these new state laws, NCSL said.
“The immigration issue is not going away,” said Virginia state senator John Watkins (R), a co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States. “As long as we fail to have a federal solution, state legislatures will continue the policy debate and develop local responses, whether it’s verification and authentication or combating human trafficking,” Watkins said in a Dec. 13 statement. “We need a national solution to relieve the pressure on states.”
Washington state representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D), who also co-chairs the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States, said state legislators are “at the forefront of managing immigration policy, recognizing the contributions of immigrants to our society and economy.”
“We urge the federal government to partner with us to reform legal immigration policy as well as to support fair and effective enforcement,” Santos said.
As of Dec. 7, 2011, state legislators had introduced 1,607 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. That is a “significant increase” compared with 2010, when 46 states considered more than 1,400 bills and resolutions, NCSL said.
However, even though more bills were introduced this year, 11 percent fewer were enacted, the report found. As of Dec. 7, 2011, 42 states and Puerto Rico had enacted 197 new laws and 109 new resolutions. Fifteen additional bills passed but were vetoed by governors, NCSL said.
The 306 laws and resolutions enacted in states in 2011 is down from 346 enacted in 2010, NCSL said.
According to the report, employment remains one of the top issues addressed in state legislation related to immigrants. Seventeen states and Puerto Rico enacted 27 employment-related immigration laws in 2011. Those states were California, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Three additional laws—in California, Maine, and New Jersey—were vetoed, NCSL said.
According to the report, employment-related immigration laws enacted in the states primarily provided employer sanctions for hiring unauthorized workers or set employment eligibility verification requirements.
Eleven states—Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia—enacted E-Verify legislation in 2011, NCSL found. In addition, Florida clarified by executive order a previous executive order that mandates the use of E-Verify for state contractors.
The report pointed out that five states have enacted omnibus, or multi-issue, immigration laws this year. Such laws were enacted in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah.
The laws in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and Utah have been enjoined by federal courts, and the South Carolina law has also been challenged in court, NCSL said.
These laws were largely inspired by Arizona’s controversial 2010 immigration law, NCSL said. That law was challenged in court by the Justice Department, and Dec. 12 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review whether the law that, among other things, makes it a state offense for an undocumented immigrant to seek employment is preempted by federal immigration law. 01.12.2012.