2012 Immigration-Related Laws, Bills and Resolutions in the States: Jan. 1–March 31, 2012
Immigration continues to command significant attention in state legislatures, though the number of bill introductions and enactments has dropped significantly.
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 is 673 fewer—a decrease of 44 percent—than the first quarter of 2011, when 1,538 bills were introduced. Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas are not in regular session in 2010, and North Carolina begins its session in May. These five states accounted for 256 bill introductions in the first quarter of 2011.
As of March 31, 2012, 27 states had enacted 24 laws and adopted 74 resolutions for a total of 98. This is a decrease of 30 percent from the 141 laws and resolution enacted in the first quarter of 2011. An additional five bills were awaiting governors’ signatures as of March 31.
The top areas of interest for introduced bills in the first quarter of 2012 were law enforcement (125), employment (119) and public benefits (92). Resolutions remained at the same level in 2012 as in 2011 (141).
States also continued to consider omnibus immigration bills in 2012. Fourteen bills were considered in nine state legislatures addressing topics such as law enforcement, employment verification and proof of lawful status to receive public benefits. Five states introduced omnibus enforcement bills containing provisions similar to Arizona’s SB 1070: Kansas (HB 2576), Mississippi (HB 488 and SB 2090), Missouri (SB 590), Rhode Island (HB 7313) and West Virginia (SB 64). The bills in Mississippi and West Virginia have failed; the others were still pending as of March 31. More information about these omnibus bills can be found below and online.
This report gives a first look at state legislation introduced in 2012 and presents selected examples of enacted laws and adopted resolutions. An NCSL report to be released in August will summarize in detail all enacted legislation from January through June.
Legislative proposals included in this overview address legal immigrants, migrant and seasonal workers, refugees or unauthorized immigrants. Terms used in this report by and large reflect the terms used in state legislation. In some state legislative language, unauthorized immigrants are also described as illegal or undocumented immigrants or aliens.
A printer-friendly version of this report is online. A chart of enacted laws and resolutions is online.
Proposed State Immigration Legislation, by Policy Arena
As of March 31, 2012
Source: NCSL Immigrant Policy Project, 2011.
Proposed State Legislation by Policy Arena, First Quarter 2012 and 2011
*includes District of Columbia
**includes Puerto Rico
Source: NCSL Immigrant Policy Project, 2012.
NOTE: Below are general descriptions of legislation introduced from Jan. 1–March 31, 2012, and selected examples of enacted laws and adopted resolutions. The next report scheduled to be released in August 2012 will include all enacted laws and resolutions for January–June. Previous state immigration reports are available here.
There were 57 bills introduced in 24 state legislatures and the District of Columbia: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.
These bills make operating appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year and allocate funds for refugee programs, immigrant integration, case services to migrant workers, migrant child care, and English language programs. Some bills set a different tax rate for nonresident aliens or require applicants for a tax credit program to repay tax credits redeemed while employing an unauthorized immigrant.
Georgia HB 741 (March 15): This law appropriates $8,749,006 of federal funds and grants for employment, health screening, medical, cash and social service assistance to refugees.
Michigan SB 683 (enacted March 27): This law appropriates the following in federal funds: $35,900 to the Refugee Assistance Program, $40,300 to Migrant Labor Housing, $4,000 for Migrant Housing inspection fees, $1,000 for the Migratory Labor Housing Fund and $72,600 for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.
There were 69 bills introduced in 25 state legislatures: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.
Many of these bills address residency requirements for in-state tuition or state financial aid for higher education. Several bills would require data collection, reporting, or cost-estimates for students here unlawfully who are attending public schools. Some bills seek to improve access to education for certain immigrants, such as refugees, migrant workers, spouses of veterans, victims of trafficking or domestic violence. A few bills address English language acquisition.
Utah H441 (March 15): This law allows a charter school whose mission is to enhance learning opportunities for refugees, children of refugee families or English language learners to give an enrollment preference to these people
One hundred nineteen bills were introduced in 35 state legislatures: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Some of these bills would penalize businesses that employ unauthorized immigrants or would require the use of an electronic employment verification system (such as E-verify). Other bills would limit immigrants’ eligibility for unemployment benefits, grant bargaining rights to immigrant farm laborers or create a guest worker program.
None of these bills related to employment had been enacted as of March 31, 2012.
There were 64 bills introduced in 25 state legislatures: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Most of these bills relate to the accessibility of health services for noncitizens or address their eligibility to participate in health insurance exchanges. Some bills would require verification of citizenship or legal status to be admitted into a hospital or to receive emergency medical care. Other bills would increase funding for medical assistance to noncitizens.
Indiana SB 223 (March 19): This law revises eligibility for the student loan repayment program for health care professionals to require one year of work in a shortage area in a health care profession, instead of a specified center such as a migrant health center or maternal and child health clinic.
There were 25 bills introduced in 13 state legislatures: Alabama, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.
These bills include a wide variety of proposals to change law enforcement and criminal justice responses to individuals and businesses involved in human trafficking, specifically of minors. Many bills would address the needs of trafficking victims by creating task forces, mandating posting of information and resources in public places, providing housing and medical assistance, and changing how trafficking victims interact with the legal system. Some bills would alter laws on how human trafficking is investigated and allow officials to ask individuals for documentation or identification based on their place of employment (such as in massage establishments). All of the bills include both domestic and foreign victims of trafficking and some address trafficking of illegal immigrants.
Utah HB 97 (March 16): This law adds the offenses of human trafficking, human smuggling and aggravated human trafficking to the list of offenses that, when conducted as a pattern of unlawful activity, would constitute the offense of racketeering..
IDS AND DRIVER'S LICENSES
There were 83 bill introduced in 29 state legislatures: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
These bills relate to acceptable documentation and eligibility requirements for state IDs and driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and firearm and hunting/fishing licenses.
Utah H 395 (March 22): This law makes it a crime to sell, transfer or dispose of a firearm to a Category I or Category II restricted person and includes illegal alien in the Category I restricted person.
There were 125 bills introduced in 35 state legislatures: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
These bills address a wide range of law enforcement areas, from firearm possession and domestic violence to drug manufacturing and trafficking. Several bills would limit the use of restraints on female prisoners and detainees during labor and delivery. Some bills require notary publics to be U.S. citizens or prohibit them from acting as immigration consultants. Many bills would seek to increase collaboration among state, local and federal law enforcement and corrections officers in determining immigration status and deterring unlawful entry.
Arizona SB 1184 (March 20): This law prohibits the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners, including those detained under immigration law, during labor or delivery, except in particular circumstances.
Indiana SB 262 (March 19): This law makes it a Class A misdemeanor to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal alien for commercial or private financial gain, or if more than nine people are involved, makes it a Class D felony. The law exempts religious organizations, health care organizations, legal services, providers of services to victims of trafficking and school employees.
Utah S 144 (March 23): The Immigration Consultants Registration Act defines an immigration consultant as a person who provides non-legal assistance or advice on an immigration matter and establishes certain requirements, such as registration, background check and posting of a bond.
There were 47 bills introduced in 21 state legislatures: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
These bills cover a variety of topics such as clarifying the definition of state citizenship, verifying lawful presence of a lottery winner or running for office and the estate tax treatment of dispositions to noncitizen surviving spouses. Some bills would prohibit landlords from inquiring about a person’s immigration status and others would authorize committees and task forces to study the impact of immigrants on their state.
Arizona SB 1115 (March 21): This law requires that loans or investment contracts entered into by the Board of Trustees of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System not involve any investments in Sudan or Iran or otherwise provide support to terrorists or in any way facilitate illegal immigration into the United States.
There were 14 bills introduced in nine state legislatures: Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.
Omnibus bills include several issues, such as immigration law enforcement, employment verification, and verification of lawful status to receive public benefits. Some of these bills require public or private employers to use E-Verify.
Five states introduced omnibus enforcement bills containing provisions similar to Arizona’s SB 1070: Kansas (HB 2576), Mississippi (HB 488 and SB 2090), Missouri (SB 590), Rhode Island (HB 7313) and West Virginia (SB 64). These bills include provisions such as requiring law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful stop; allowing state residents to sue state and local agencies for failing to comply with immigration enforcement; and making it a state violation for failing to carry an alien registration document. The bills in Mississippi and West Virginia have failed; the others were still pending as of March 31.
Alabama is considering bills to amend or repeal the state’s omnibus enforcement bill of 2011, HB 56. Three bills (HB 226, HB 658, and SB 140) would amend HB 56 and two bills (HB 106 and SB 41) would repeal it.
Other omnibus bills address several policies but without the Arizona-like provisions described above. Utah considered and rejected repeals (HB 300 and SB 157) of the guest worker program, part of last year’s package of four immigration bills addressing legal and illegal immigration. New Mexico’s omnibus bill (SB 14) would: require the use of E-Verify; direct the state to work with the federal government to develop a guest worker program; verify an applicant’s lawful presence to receive public benefits; and create a driving privilege card. A Washington bill (SB 6436) would: make it unlawful to transport or harbor illegal immigrants; limit a driver's license to citizens or lawful permanent residents; require verification of status for a felony or DUI arrest; and mandate a work verification system for public employers.
See State Omnibus Immigration Legislation and Legal Challenges to learn more.
No omnibus bills had been enacted as of March 31, 2012.
There were 92 bills introduced in 25 state legislatures: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
These bills range from changes in state administration of a variety of social service programs that affect all people covered by the programs—immigrants and non-immigrants alike—and proposals specifically meant to ensure only lawfully present immigrants are eligible for benefits. Many bills relate to child custody and support and guardians’ roles. Some bills mandate drug testing or verification of immigration status before receiving benefits or place additional requirements or criteria on eligibility.
No bills related to public benefits had been enacted as of March 31, 2012.
There were 29 bills introduced in 15 state legislatures: Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
These bills would require proof of U.S. citizenship and valid, current photo identification for in-person and absentee voting, and would specify birth certificate, U.S. passport or U.S. naturalization documents as satisfactory evidence of U.S. citizenship for voter registration or running as a candidate for a local elected office. Some would impose a Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment, on any applicant who knowingly provides false information about a voter’s qualification on the voter registration form.
No bills related to voting had been enacted as of March 31, 2012.
There were 141 resolutions considered in 35 state legislatures: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Some of these resolutions commend honorable immigrant citizens and the contributions of various ethnic groups and organizations to state communities. Others designate days in support of immigrants, urge the federal government to enforce immigration laws, expand federal programs to qualifying citizens, and support the adoption of a seasonal worker program. Several resolutions urge Congress or the President of the United States to take action, such as funding the Coast Guard to fulfill its 11 statutory missions, including migrant interdiction; allow states to administer their own H-2A guest worker programs; support the inclusion of the Philippines in the VISIT USA Act to help boost Hawaii’s tourism industry; make the Republic of Poland eligible for the U.S. Department of State's Visa Waiver Program; secure our national borders and enforce all immigration laws; and honor Virginia's request to enter into a Section 287(g) memorandum of agreement extending specific, limited federal immigration training and enforcement authority to the Virginia Department of State Police.
Georgia SR 715 (Feb. 9): This resolution urges Congress to allow states to administer their own H-2A guest worker programs through the monitoring of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Ann Morse, Program Director, Immigrant Policy Project, NCSL
Perpetua Mbachu, Spring Fellow, Immigrant Policy Project, NCSL
Angelynn Hermes, Emerson National Hunger Fellow, NCSL
Sheri Steisel, Senior Federal Affairs Counsel, NCSL
Molly Ramdsell, Director, Washington D.C. Office, NCSL
Neal Osten, Director, Washington D.C. Office, NCSL
This report was made possible in part by a grant from the Four Freedoms Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of NCSL.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, May 2012