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April 17, 2013

NCSL Supportive of Federal Immigration Bill, But Concerned About How ‘RPIs’ Will Affect State Budgets

Washington, D.C.—The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) applauds the bipartisan work of the “Gang of Eight” senators who have come together to introduce comprehensive immigration reform. Federal inaction has pushed states to their limit, forcing them to shoulder the immigration responsibilities of the federal government. We are pleased this legislation goes a long way toward correcting this problem, with the federal government fixing a broken immigration system and paying for the enforcement and implementation of its own laws.

While generally supportive, NCSL is concerned about the financial impact the bill’s “registered provisional immigrants” (RPIs)— the bill’s designation for unauthorized immigrants in the country before Dec. 31, 2011—will have on state budgets. Specifically, how states will pay for the health care and education needs of this population of 11 million. NCSL will work with Congress to attain sufficient funding.
 “States have been calling on the federal government to move on comprehensive immigration reform for over a decade. With the introduction of this bill, I’m hopeful that real progress is on the horizon,” said Speaker Terie Norelli (D-N.H.), president of NCSL. “In the absence of federal action, states have been forced to take action on their own.”  In 2012 alone, 267 immigration-related bills were passed in state legislatures.

“NCSL has been a strong force for states on the issue of immigration. Over the coming months, as this bill moves its way through Congress, we look forward to working with our federal partners to ensure that the interests of states are addressed in the final legislation,” said Senator Bruce Starr (R-Ore.), president-elect of NCSL.

NCSL supports the bill’s plan for border security, its inclusion of a path to citizenship and its temporary worker program. These are consistent with NCSL’s immigration policy, developed by state legislators and approved by the necessary threshold of at least three-fourths of the states.

NCSL is also particularly pleased that the bill reauthorizes the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The program reimburses states and localities for the costs associated with incarcerating undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, the program was left unfunded in President Obama’s budget plan.

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.