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Dec. 13, 2011

NCSL Releases 2011 Report on State Immigration Laws

States introduced a record 1,607 immigration related bills and resolutions in 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a newly released study on the state immigration laws, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that in 2011, state legislators from across the country introduced 1,607 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees. This is a significant increase from 2010, when 46 states considered more than 1,400 bills and resolutions pertaining to immigrants. As of Dec. 7, 2011, 42 states and Puerto Rico had enacted 197 new laws and 109 new resolutions, for a total of 306.

"The immigration issue is not going away,” said Senator John Watkins of Virginia and 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.  We need a national solution to relieve the pressure on states." 

Five states—Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah—crafted omnibus laws following the example of Arizona’s 2010 bill, SB 1070. These laws include provisions that require law enforcement to attempt 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, that it will decide the fate of Arizona’s immigration law. Commenting on the announcement, NCSL’s Immigrant Policy Project Program Director Ann Morse said, “States will be closely watching the Supreme Court ruling to indicate how expansive the state role can be in immigration policy.”

In education, Connecticut and Maryland have joined 10 other states in allowing unauthorized immigrant students to be eligible for in-state tuition. In addition to in-state tuition, California now offers financial aid to unauthorized immigrant students.

"States are at the forefront of managing immigration policy, recognizing the contributions of immigrants to our society and economy," said Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos of the Washington Legislature and co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States. “We urge the federal government to partner with us to reform legal immigration policy as well as to support fair and effective enforcement."


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.