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  • Meagan Dorsch
    Director of Public Affairs
  • Jon Kuhl
    Public Affairs Specialist
    Washington, D.C.
May 22, 2012

NCSL Report: Immigration Bills Plummet in 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Though immigration continues to be a hot issue in state legislatures, the number of bills has dropped significantly, according to a new report from NCSL’s Immigrant Policy Project.

In the first quarter of 2012, 865 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees were introduced in 45 state legislatures and the District of Columbia. This number represents a 44 percent decrease from this point last year, when 1,538 bills were introduced.

As of March 31, 27 states enacted 24 laws and adopted 74 resolutions. This total of 98 is 30 percent lower than the 141 measures enacted in the first quarter of 2011. An additional five bills were awaiting governors’ signatures.

"This issue has not dropped off of the radar screen in state legislatures,” said Senator John Watkins (R) of Virginia and co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States. “Some states are waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules on immigration issues before moving ahead with their own policy debates."

For bills introduced in the first quarter of 2012, the report found that law enforcement (125), employment (119), and public benefits (92) were the top areas of interest.

Immigration enforcement measures like Arizona’s SB1070 continue to garner attention. Five states in 2012 introduced omnibus enforcement bills containing provisions similar to the Arizona law, including Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.  Mississippi’s and West Virginia’s bills have failed.

"States continue to urge the federal government to become a partner in reforming immigration policy. States are seeking a national solution to relieve the pressure," said Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D) of the Washington Legislature and co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States.

NCSL’s Immigration Policy Project produces reports three times a year on state laws that address immigration issues. This report examines introduced legislation and presents selected examples of enacted laws and adopted resolutions. The July 2012 report summarizes all enacted legislation from January through June. The December year-end report summarizes all laws and resolutions enacted, and highlights examples of new laws or trends.

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.