As the nation grapples with its tug-of-war over immigration reform, many states have been working to exert their own powers over the issue, leading to a patchwork of various bills aimed at addressing the problem that many say the federal government has failed to fix. Even with President Obama's recent announcement that he would stop deporting young illegal immigrants, the hot-button issue wages on.
In the first three months of 2012, 865 bills and resolutions related to immigration have been introduced in 45 state legislatures and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The number of immigration-related bills and resolutions introduced declined compared to the same period last year, when 1,538 bills were introduced.
Several states have also introduced comprehensive bills addressing immigration issues in 2011. Thirty states have considered a total of 53 omnibus bills, according to the NCSL. Of these, six have been enacted: Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah. Twenty-one other bills are pending and 26 have failed.
The impact of these bills on members of the immigrant and greater communities in these states is difficult to quantify.
The number of deportations in Arizona, whose controversial immigration bill sparked a legal battle currently awaiting resolution by the Supreme Court, dropped from 23,065 in 2009 to 19,478 in 2011, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
The bill was designed to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the state. Although some of the most controversial provisions were enjoined pending a ruling by the court, some say that the legislation has caused some illegal immigrants and their families to do just that--possibly explaining the decrease in deportations.
It’s difficult to know what the impact the legislation, known as SB-1070, has been on the number of Hispanics living in Arizona. The Census does not release population estimates annually.
In 2010, Hispanics represented 29.5 percent of Arizona’s population, according to the Census - up from 25.3 percent a decade earlier.
That year, 70 percent of the more than 1.9 million Hispanics living in the state were born there, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington D.C.
Although most of the state’s Hispanic residents are citizens by birth, the majority of those deported from the state were Hispanic, TRAC data shows.
Mexicans represented 78.1 percent of the 23,065 people deported from Arizona in 2009. Two years later, Mexicans accounted for a 74.3 percent share of those removed.
Here’s a rundown of the state immigration enforcement legislation and their statuses, according to the NCSL.
SB-1070 and HB-2162 were passed as part of an effort to beef up the Arizona’s immigration enforcement laws. Parts of the legislation have been enjoined when the Justice Department filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction, citing the unconstitutionality of some provisions. The Supreme Court will be making a decision this week on the legislation.
The provisions add state penalties for trespassing, harboring and transporting illegal immigrants, as well provisions pertaining to alien registration documents, employer sanctions and human smuggling.
The parts of the legislation up for debate in court and are currently barred include:
- Authorizing state law officers to determine immigration status during any lawful stop;
- Making it a misdemeanor for an immigrant to be in the state without alien registration documents;
- Allowing warrantless arrests if authorities have probable cause that the person is an illegal immigrant; and
- Prohibiting unauthorized immigrants to apply for or perform work in the state.
Provisions of the legislation that have not been barred are related to prohibiting human smuggling and unlawfully transporting or harboring illegal immigrants.
In Alabama, HB56 passed in June 2011 and addressed several elements: law enforcement, employment, education, public benefits, transportation/rental housing and voting. In September 2011, the federal government filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction on several of the provisions, questioning the constitutionality of the legislation.
Alabama’s immigration law is arguably the strictest passed in the nation so far.
Several lawsuits have led to the courts to blocking major parts of the legislation, including:
Making it a misdemeanor for immigrants who fail to carry alien registration documents;