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January 13, 2011

Broken Federal Immigration Policy Leaves States in a Lurch

With no federal legislation, state legislators move to enact local solutions.

Congress again failed to consider comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. Despite federal inaction, state legislatures continue to lead the way in addressing the complex and challenging issue of immigration.

According to a new immigration report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), states enacted a record number of bills and resolutions on immigration issues during the 2010 sessions.

Forty-six state legislatures and the District of Columbia enacted 208 laws and adopted 138 resolutions for a total of 346. Ten additional bills were vetoed. During the same period in 2009, 44 states enacted 202 laws and adopted 131 resolutions for a total of 333. Twenty bills in 2009 were vetoed. Montana, Nevada, North Dakota or Texas were not in regular session in 2010. Every state that met in regular session in 2010 considered laws related to immigrants and immigration, including legislation addressing legal immigrants, migrant and seasonal workers, refugees or unauthorized immigrants.

"State legislatures will continue to step forward and create local solutions without comprehensive federal legislation," said William Pound, executive director of NCSL. "In the long term, immigration policy requires federal reform, and states look forward to working with the federal government to find effective solutions."

As in previous years, employment, law enforcement and identification/driver’s licenses remained the top issues addressed in state legislation related to immigrants. E-verify legislation was enacted in four states—Georgia, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. A new area of concern for state legislators in 2010 was child abductions.  Alabama, Florida and Tennessee enacted laws to help prevent them.

Getting the most attention last year was Arizona's new immigration laws (SB 1070 and HB 2162). Six bills similar to Arizona's were introduced in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, but none were enacted.

Summaries of all enacted laws and resolutions are available online in a searchable database and in two PDF charts sorted alphabetically by state and by category.This NCSL publication and PDF are registered with the NCSL copyright and may not be reproduced, uploaded or distributed in any way in its entirety.


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.