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States Introduce Fewer Immigration Bills

As the Supreme Court Debates SB1070, number of state laws related to immigration drops, report says.

The number of immigration bills and resolutions appearing in state legislatures across the country declined steeply in the first quarter of this year, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

More than 1,500 bills were introduced the first quarter of 2011. This year only 865 have been introduced in 45 state legislatures and the District of Columbia during the same period, said the report released Tuesday.

The number of laws enacted is also down. As of March 31, 27 states enacted 24 laws and adopted 74 resolutions. That represents a 30 percent drop in the number of measures enacted in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period a year ago.  An additional five bills were awaiting governors’ signatures.

State Sen. John Watkins, R-Va., said that the drop off is due to the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, regarding the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, known as SB1070.

“This issue has not dropped off of the radar screen in state legislatures,” he said in a NCSL news release. “Some states are waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules on immigration issues before moving ahead with their own policy debates.”

While the Supreme Court case may explain the drop in part, some states are questioning whether laws like SB1070 are good for their economy, said David Leopold, incoming general counsel for the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association.  

“These types of laws don’t help the states economically,”  Leopold said. “In fact, there’s evidence out there that they actually hurt the state’s gross domestic product.”

This year, five states -- Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, and West Virginia -- introduced omnibus enforcement bills, each includin elements similar to those in SB1070, according to the report. Mississippi’s and West Virginia bills have failed; The others were pending as of March 31.

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