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  • Jane Andrade
    Director of Public Affairs
  • Jon Kuhl
    Director of Public Affairs
    Washington, D.C.
Sept. 11, 2013

NCSL Report: State Immigration Laws Rebound in 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following a lull in 2012, the number of laws states passed related to immigration rebounded significantly in 2013, according to a new report from the National Conference of State Legislature’s (NCSL) Immigrant Policy Project.

States seemed to put reforms on hold while they waited for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. United States, according to the report. The high court held on June 25, 2012, that federal law preempted three of four provisions in Arizona’s omnibus immigration law, SB 1070, enacted in 2010. Less than a week later, the federal government issued a new policy—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—which provides young unauthorized immigrants a temporary respite from deportation along with the opportunity to apply for work authorization.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision and DACA policy seemed to spur states back into action in 2013. As of June 30, state legislatures had already exceeded the number of laws and resolutions enacted in all of 2012. Lawmakers in 43 states and the District of Columbia enacted 146 laws and 231 resolutions related to immigration, for a total of 377—a 83 percent increase from the 206 laws and resolutions enacted in the first half of 2012. This increase was driven in large part by a spike in resolutions, with Texas alone adopting 96 resolutions commending the contributions of immigrants and seeking federal action. Excluding resolutions, enacted legislation increased 28 percent in 2013 compared to the same timeframe in 2012, with 146 laws compared to 114. This level of legislative action, however, remains below the 162 laws enacted in 2011.

A variety of issues were addressed in the laws, including:

  • IDs/Driver’s licenses. Thirty-four laws were enacted in 20 states, comprising 23 percent of immigration laws in 2013. Many defined eligibility for state-issued identification and driver’s licenses.
  • Budget and appropriations. Authorizing funds for immigration enforcement, English language and citizenship classes, and migrant and refugee programs were among the actions that accounted for 14 percent of this year’s laws.
  • Education. Another 16 percent of laws defined immigration and residency requirements for college students, with three states extending instate tuition benefits to unauthorized immigrant students.
  • Law enforcement. Although 14 acts related to law enforcement were passed, also accounting for 11 percent of action in 2013, that number is significantly lower than the 20 enforcement laws passed by June 2012, or the 42 enacted as of June 2011. 
  • Employment. Ten percent of laws focused on employment, particularly to verify work authorization and address noncompliance, while other laws addressed workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance.
  • Health. Another 10 percent of laws addressed issues such as eligibility for Medicaid or licensing for health professionals.

NCSL’s Immigration Policy Project produces reports three times a year on state laws that address immigration issues. This report summarizes all enacted legislation, offering examples of laws and resolutions, 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.