Immigrant Policy Project



Immigrant Policy – News from the States:  2005 
August 11, 2005



For the first six months of 2005, state legislatures considered almost 300 bills on immigrant and refugee policy issues and passed 471.  Governors signed 36 bills and vetoed seven; four bills either required no gubernatorial response or had not yet been acted upon.  Areas with the most legislative activity included benefits, education, employment, human trafficking, identification and driver’s licenses, and law enforcement.  This brief is not intended to be an exhaustive search of all legislation introduced and passed by state legislatures, but rather an attempt to highlight the major themes of legislation that passed at least one legislative chamber.



Measures to expand or constrict immigrant use of benefits emerged in several state legislatures for the first part of 2005.  Colorado, Florida, Maine, and Washington enacted measures to enhance immigrant access to benefits.  Colorado reinstated SSI and Medicaid eligibility for certain legal immigrants (H.B. 05-1086).  Florida agreed to provide child welfare services without regard to citizenship (S.B. 498).  Maine created a demonstration project for mental health and substance abuse services for refugees (L.D. 37/S.P. 17).  Washington (H.B. 1441) reinstated SCHIP eligibility to immigrant children (including unauthorized immigrant children and legal immigrant children eligible but for the five-year federal bar). 

Fifteen states considered bills to restrict immigrant benefits (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) but Virginia’s bill was the only one signed into law; H.B. 1798/S.B. 1143 prohibits unauthorized immigrants from receiving state or local public benefits. 


In 2005, ten states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Rhode Island) examined legislation to grant in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrant students.  New Mexico became the ninth state to extend in-state tuition to certain unauthorized immigrant students.  S.B. 582 was signed by the governor in April. 

Seven states (Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming) considered bills prohibiting unauthorized immigrants from receiving in-state tuition; Arizona’s H.B. 2030 passed the legislature, and it was vetoed by the governor.  Three states including Georgia, New York, and Virginia, considered but did not pass legislation to bar unauthorized immigrants from enrolling in state post-secondary institutions.


Several states considered legislation regarding employment of immigrants.  Florida, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee would have prohibited the awarding of government contracts to firms that employ unauthorized workers, though none were signed into law.  Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, New York, and South Carolina considered bills to punish employers of unauthorized workers through the imposition of fines and the revoking of licenses but none of these measures passed the legislature.  South Carolina and Virginia sought to deny workers’ compensation for unauthorized workers but neither state’s bill advanced. 

Arizona enacted H.B. 2592 that prevents cities from constructing day labor centers if the centers assist unauthorized immigrants.  Wyoming redefined the term “employee” in state law to be someone an employer believes to be a citizen or permanent resident at the date of hire in S.B. 82, a measure approved by the governor.  Alaska (H.B. 102), Illinois (S.B. 2064), and North Dakota (S.B. 2388) considered bills to enable foreign medical practitioners to work under certain conditions.  Illinois’ measure awaits gubernatorial action and Alaska and North Dakota’s bills were signed by their governors. 


Human Trafficking

Twelve states considered measures relating to human trafficking; nine measures were enacted.  Arizona’s S.1372 gives local law enforcement the ability to arrest smugglers and to penalize human trafficking and was signed by the governor in March.  Colorado’s governor signed H.B. 1143 that creates a task force on human trafficking.  Idaho’s bill (H.C.R. 18) authorizes an interim study; it passed the House and Senate in April and does not require gubernatorial action.  Illinois’ governor signed a bill that criminalizes involuntary servitude (including sexual servitude of minors) and human trafficking and ensures that victims are referred to appropriate state and federal services (H.B. 1469).  Kansas bill (S.B. 72) criminalizes human trafficking as a class 2 felony and aggravated trafficking as a class 1 felony and was signed into law.  In Louisiana, the governor signed H.B. 56 that criminalizes human trafficking and establishes penalties including fines and imprisonment.  Missouri’s bill (H.B. 353) that creates standards for international “matchmaking” services and classifies the provision of incorrect information as a class D felony was signed by the governor. New Jersey passed a bill (A. 2730) and the governor signed it that criminalizes human trafficking and authorizes victim compensation.  Washington’s measure (H.B. 5127) creates a working group to develop written protocols for the delivery of services to human trafficking victims and was signed into law by the governor.


Of the at least twenty-seven states that considered legislation relating to identification documents and immigrants, requiring proof of citizenship or permanent legal residency in order to engage in activities such as voting, receiving governmental services, obtaining a driver’s license, and owning a handgun, nine bills were enacted. 

Arizona’s legislature passed two bills, S. 1118 that would have enhanced voting requirements and prohibited use of ID cards issued by Mexican consulates as valid identification, and S. 1511 that would have required the use of federal, state, or tribal identification to receive state services.  The governor vetoed both measures. 

Arkansas’s bill (H.S. 2539) establishes several new guidelines including but not limited to minimum document requirements to obtain a driver’s license, a prohibition on use of foreign documents except a passport to prove identity, and provisions to prevent fraud and was signed into law.  Illinois’ governor recently signed a bill (S.B. 1623) that would allow state agencies to recognize consular identification documents as valid identification except in certain circumstances.  Kentucky’s bill (H.B. 275) was signed by its governor and requires proof of citizenship for licensing for several professions.  Montana enacted H.B. 385 that imposes lawful presence and displays immigration status on driver’s licenses and links expiration date of license to immigration status, among other provisions.  Tennessee’s governor signed H.B. 698/S.B. 1627 to require proof of citizenship to obtain a handgun permit.  Texas’ H.B. 1137 allows the DMV to enter into agreements with foreign governments with similar licensing and driving laws so that licenses issued by one entity are recognized by the other and in the cases of individuals who fall under these agreements, proof of lawful presence is required, and it was signed by the governor. 

Two bills in Utah were signed into law.  S.B. 223 imposes lawful presence and links expiration of driver’s license with visa expiration.  S.B. 227 allows unauthorized immigrants to use identification cards for driving but for no other purposes.  Virginia’s driver’s license bill (S.B. 821) allows anyone age 19 or older to waive the learner’s permit and driver’s education requirements if that person has a foreign license and was signed by the governor. 

A ballot initiative was filed in Washington state (343) on June 14, 2005 that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote and is similar to Arizona’s Proposition 200 that passed last year. 

Law Enforcement


Law enforcement bills on topics including enhanced penalties for immigrants convicted of crimes and state and local authority to enforce federal civil immigration laws emerged in the legislatures of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, New York, and South Carolina but only three measures were enacted into law.  Arizona’s A.Z. 2259 that allows immigration status to factor into sentencing was signed by the governor but two other bills including H. 2709 that would have constructed a prison in Mexico to house unauthorized immigrants who commit crimes in Arizona and S. 1306 that would have allowed local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws met gubernatorial vetoes.  Arkansas’ governor signed H.B. 1012 that designates state law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws and establishes steps needed to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government.  In Colorado, the governor approved H.B. 05-1278, a bill that provides a mechanism of distributing federal funds from the Immigration and Nationality Act to the state’s Department of Corrections for criminal aliens. 

A ballot initiative that would deny bail to unauthorized immigrants (H.C.R. 2028) will appear on Arizona’s next general election ballot. 


Project staff welcome your edits or comments on this brief.  Please contact the Immigration Program with any suggestions.



1 Reference: Lexis-Nexis database search on state legislation related to immigrants and refugees with activity during January 1, 2005 – June 30, 2005 with additional research on bills pertaining to benefits, employment, human trafficking, identification/driver’s licenses, and in-state tuition.  Thanks to the National Immigration Law Center staff members for feedback on the report and for the use of their charts on identification and benefits.

Prepared by:

Lindsay Littlefield, State-Federal Relations Fellow
Immigrant Policy Project –
National Conference of State Legislatures