States Pass 171 Immigration Laws in 2014


NCSL NewsYear-End Immigration Report Finds States Enacted Laws on Wide Range of Issues

Washington, D.C. – While Congress fails to address immigration, state lawmakers across the nation have passed ample legislation on the topic, including 171 laws and 117 resolutions in the past year, according to a report released today by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). 

 “We ask our colleagues in Washington, D.C., to learn from state legislators, who are addressing immigration in creative and bipartisan ways in our state capitols,” said Senator Mo Denis (D-Nev.), co-chair for NCSL’s Task Force on Immigration and the States.

“Gridlock in Washington has failed to fix our broken immigration system, leading states to take on the challenge,” Denis said. “Nevada lawmakers, with strong bipartisan consensus, chose to offer driver authorization cards for immigrants who are in the country without legal status. Because of this law, today Nevada roads are safer.”

Although 171 laws and 117 resolutions were adopted in 2014, that’s a 34 percent decline from 2013, when state houses enacted 438 laws and resolutions. The decrease can be attributed in part to four states—Montana, North Dakota, Nevada and Texas that did not meet in regular session in 2014. In 2013, Texas alone enacted 101 laws and resolutions, accounting for two-thirds of the difference.

According to the year-end report, states continue to consider immigration issues in a range of policy areas including appropriations, education, health, benefits, law enforcement, employment, driver’s licenses and human trafficking.

  • Budget and appropriations: This area accounts for the majority of legislation, 22 percent of the 171 adopted laws. They included funding for immigration enforcement, English language and citizenship classes, and refugee programs.
  • Law enforcement: This area was second at 16 percent, with measures addressing immigration enforcement and consumer fraud for immigration services. 
  • Driver’s licenses and IDs: This area declined to 26 laws, down from 36 bills that were enacted in 2013, and accounted for 15 percent of all enacted laws on immigration.
  • Education: This area represented 9 percent of state laws and resolutions related to immigration. California expanded in-state tuition to include three years attendance at elementary and secondary schools. Florida and Tennessee extended in-state tuition benefits to certain immigrant students and U.S. citizen children of unauthorized parents. Washington extended state financial assistance to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. Missouri barred funds to higher education institutions if tuition to unlawfully present students is less than U.S. citizens who are not residents of Missouri.

“State legislators have long been active in finding local solutions to immigration challenges, but this issue ultimately requires reform at the federal level,” said Senator John Watkins (R-Va.), co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States. “We look forward for the opportunity to share our ideas and expertise, and to work with the new Congress and the administration to make our economy stronger and our communities safer.” 

Of the 117 resolutions, 10 sought action from Congress or the administration, seeking support for EB-2 visas and centers (Michigan); visas for Korean skilled workers (Georgia) and for Filipino veterans (Illinois); support for comprehensive immigration reform (Florida, Nebraska and New Jersey); and an apology to Chinese Americans for enactment of Chinese exclusion laws (California).

No state legislation related to E-Verify, extending driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants, or omnibus legislation passed in 2014.

Published since 2005, the annual report by NCSL’s Immigration Policy Project tracks and reports on state laws that address immigration and immigrants. This year-end report summarizes all laws and resolutions enacted in 2014 and highlights examples of new laws and trends.

A copy of the immigration report by NCSL can be found here.

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.