Immigrant Policy Project

A Review of State Immigration Legislation in 2005

In 2005, interest in immigration issues spiked in state legislatures.  Approximately 300 bills were introduced, and 45 passed the legislature.  Governors signed 37 bills and vetoed 6; 2 bills required no gubernatorial action. 

Bills were enacted in 25 states:  Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Main topics included public benefits, education, employment, trafficking, identification, and law enforcement/legal services.

Benefits (5 bills: 5 enacted): Colorado, Florida, Maine, and Washington enacted measures to enhance immigrant access to benefits; while 15 states considered restrictions on benefits, only Virginia enacted legislation to do so. 

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 reinstated SCHIP eligibility to immigrant children (including unauthorized immigrant children and legal immigrant children eligible but for the five-year federal bar.  (H.B. 1441)
Virginia will prohibit unauthorized immigrants from receiving state or local public benefits (H.B. 1798/S.B. 1143) 

Education (3 bills: 3 enacted):

Arizona’s legislature passed H.B. 2030, which would have prohibited unauthorized immigrants access to adult basic education, ESL instruction, in-state tuition, financial aid, and child care assistance. The governor vetoed this bill.
New Mexico became the ninth state to extend in-state tuition to certain unauthorized immigrant students (S.B. 582).
Utah limited in-state tuition privileges to only those immigrants who hold permanent resident status (H.B. 138).             

Employment (5 bills: 5 enacted): A new area for state legislative consideration was deterring the employment of unauthorized immigrants, through denial of government contracts, fines, revoking of licenses, and restrictions on employment benefits. 

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. 
Alaska (H.B. 102), Illinois (S.B. 2064), and North Dakota (S.B. 2388) enacted legislation to enable foreign medical practitioners to work under certain conditions.

Trafficking (9 bills: 9 enacted):  9 measures were enacted, adding law enforcement authority and penalties on traffickers, compensation to victims, and studies.

Arizona gave local law enforcement the ability to arrest smugglers and to penalize human trafficking. (S. 1372)
Colorado created a task force on human trafficking (H.B 1143). 
Idaho authorized an interim study; it passed the House and Senate in April and does not require gubernatorial action.  (H.C.R. 18)
Illinois criminalized 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 criminalized human trafficking as a class 2 felony and aggravated trafficking as a class 1 felony (S.B. 72). 
Louisiana criminalized human trafficking and established penalties including fines and imprisonment (H.B. 56). 
Missouri  created standards for international “matchmaking” services and classified the provision of incorrect information as a class D felony (H.B. 353)
New Jersey criminalized human trafficking and authorizes victim compensation (A. 2730). 
Washington created a working group to develop written protocols for the delivery of services to human trafficking victims.  (H.B. 5127)
(Note:  in 2003-2004 WA, TX, FL, MO and CT enacted laws.)

Identification/Driver’s Licenses/Voting (11 bills: 9 enacted, 2 vetoed). 

Arizonas 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 established 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. (H.B. 2539)
Illinois will allow state agencies to recognize consular identification documents as valid identification except in certain circumstances. (S.B. 1623)
Kentucky required proof of citizenship for licensing for several professions. (H.B. 275)
Maine required proof of citizenship or documentation of legal residency to obtain a driver’s license (L.D. 763).
Montana imposes lawful presence and displays immigration status on driver’s licenses and links expiration date of license to immigration status, among other provisions. (H.B. 385)
Tennessee requires proof of citizenship to obtain a handgun permit.  (H.B. 698/S.B. 1627)
Texas 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 (H.B.1137).
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 will allow anyone age 19 or older to waive the learner’s permit and driver’s education requirements for a driver’s license if that person has a foreign license. (S.B. 821)

Law Enforcement (5 bills: 3 enacted, 2 vetoed).  Another new area of interest for state legislatures was increasing penalties for immigrants convicted of crimes and considering cooperation of state and local law enforcement with federal authorities.. 

Arizona’s H.B. 2259 allows immigration status to factor into sentencing was signed by the governor; but two other bills met gubernatorial vetoes:  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.
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. 


Languages (3 bills: 1 enacted, 2 vetoed).

Arizona’s legislature made English the state’s official language and required that all government functions be conducted in English. The governor vetoed the measure (S.B. 1167).
Oklahoma’s legislature proclaimed 2005 to be the Year of Languages, in recognition of increased immigration levels, globalization, and the educational benefits of learning new languages (SCR 8). 
West Virginia’s legislature passed an "English as the Official Language" amendment attached to an unrelated bill. The Governor vetoed the measure, stating that Constitution forbids bills about more than one topic (H.B. 2782).

Legal Services: (2 bills: 2 enacted).

Illinoislegislature established fee limits on immigration services provided by notary publics and prohibited translated marketing language to avoid words implying certification to provide legal services ( S.B. 233).
Maryland’s governor signed a measure designed to protect immigrants from unauthorized services by immigration consultants by increasing restrictions and regulations governing the industry (H.B. 691).

Land: (2 bills: 2 enacted).

North Dakota repealed the past prohibition on transferring a title on agricultural land to an alien.  The legislature also enabled non-citizens or permanent residents to own agricultural land, provided they met certain other requirements. The governor signed both measures (S.B. 2161, S.B. 2322).

Prepared by:
Ann Morse, Lindsay Littlefield, and Leya Speasmaker
Immigrant Policy Project
National Conference of State Legislatures
Revised January 2007