Immigration Policy Report 

2011 Immigration-Related Laws and Resolutions in the States (January-June)

September 19, 2011

In the first half of 2011, state legislators introduced 1,592 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The number of bill introductions is an increase of 16 percent compared to the first half of 2010, when 46 states considered 1,374 bills and resolutions pertaining to immigrants.   

As of June 30, 2011, 40 state legislatures enacted 162 laws and adopted 95 resolutions for a total of 257. Twelve additional bills passed but were vetoed by governors.   As of June 30, an additional 10 bills were pending governors’ approval – these bills are not included in this report of enacted laws.  For the same period in 2010, 44 state legislatures passed 191 laws and adopted 128 resolutions, for a total of 314. An additional five bills were vetoed.  The 2011 total of laws and resolutions is a decrease of 18 percent.

As in previous years, law enforcement, identification/driver’s licenses and employment remained the top issues addressed in state legislation related to immigrants. Several states – Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Utah – enacted sex offender registries that include a requirement of proof of citizenship or immigration documents. Montana required that the DMV use the SAVE program to verify a driver's license or an ID applicant's lawful presence. E-Verify legislation was enacted in 9 states: Alabama,  Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. Florida added an E-Verify requirement by executive order.  Eighteen states now have an E-Verify requirement. 

Five states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana South Carolina and Utah – crafted omnibus laws following the example of Arizona’s SB.1070. The legislation includes provisions that require law enforcement to attempt to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful stop; allowing state residents to sue state and local agencies for noncompliance with immigration enforcement; requiring E-Verify; and making it a state violation for failure to carry an alien registration document.  Alabama’s HB.56 requires schools to verify students’ immigration status.   Court challenges based on preemption and civil rights have been filed against the Alabama, Georgia, and Indiana laws and Utah’s HB497.    

Utah took the immigration debate in a new direction, crafting a package of bills to support immigration enforcement and a legal immigrant workforce (HB.116, HB.466, HB.469 and HB.497). Key provisions include seeking a federal waiver to obtain foreign workers; creating a multi-agency strike force to combat crimes associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking; creating an advisory Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration; and requiring studies on the economic, legal, cultural and educational impact of immigration and a state plan on immigration and integration. 

In education, Maryland and Connecticut will permit unauthorized immigrant students to be eligible for in-state tuition. Twelve states now have similar statutes that typically condition eligibility on attendance and graduation from a state high school and college admission.  

In the health and public benefits categories, Washington state offers services to ethnic minority children participating in foster care ages 18 to 21. Indiana established a county domestic violence fatality review team and provides migrant child care if domestic violence is found. Nevada created the Silver State health insurance exchange and permits lawfully present immigrants to participate. 

More information on these omnibus laws can be found under the omnibus category in this report and online. See also NCSL’s publications on Arizona’s law and on omnibus bills in 2011  

State laws related to immigration have increased dramatically in recent years:

  • In 2005, 300 bills were introduced; 38 laws were enacted and 6 vetoed.
  • In 2006, 570 bills were introduced, 84 laws were enacted and 12 resolutions adopted.
  • In 2007, 1,562 bills were introduced, 240 laws were enacted and 50 resolutions adopted.
  • In 2008, 1,305 bills were introduced, 206 laws were enacted and 64 resolutions adopted.
  • In 2009, more than 1,500 bills were introduced, 222 laws were enacted and 131 resolutions adopted. 
  • In 2010, more than 1,400 bills were introduced, 208 laws were enacted, and 138 resolutions adopted.
  • As of June 30, 2011, 40 state legislatures enacted 162 laws and adopted 95 resolutions for a total of 257. 

Summaries of all enacted laws and resolutions are available online sorted alphabetically by state and by category at:   

pdfChart of 2011 Enacted Immigration-Related Laws and Resolutions  States

  • Enacted laws and resolutions as of June 30, 2011 by state
  • Enacted laws and resolutions as of June 30, 2011 by subject 


This report summarizes laws and resolutions enacted between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2011. 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. 

Immigration Map











Key - Immigration Map









Laws and Resolutions Passed by Legislatures in 2010 v. 2011


January-June 2010

January-June 2010

January-June 2011

January-June 2011

Main Topics

Number of Laws Enacted

Number of States

Number of Laws Enacted

Number of States





















Human Trafficking





ID/Driver's Licenses and Other Licenses





Law Enforcement










Omnibus/Multi-Issue Measures





Public Benefits

























Total laws and resolutions enacted/adopted










Vetoed by governors










Total enacted laws and resolutions




Please note: These figures reflect laws that have passed out of legislatures, but do not include those still pending a Governor’s signature.

Source: NCSL Immigrant Policy Project, 2011. 


The full report of state laws is available online by state and by category. The brief summary below describes the categories and provides examples of laws enacted in 2011.

BUDGET (18; 2 vetoed)

Eighteen budget laws were enacted in 14 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington. Two laws were vetoed from California and Minnesota. 

These laws typically appropriate funds for migrant health centers, education, law enforcement, refugee resettlement or naturalization assistance programs. 

Example: Virginia H.1500 appropriates money for a multilingual outreach campaign to inform qualified aliens and their children, who are U.S. citizens, of their eligibility for federal food stamps and to ensure that they have access to benefits under the food stamp program. To the extent permitted by federal law, the State Plan for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) shall provide assistance to aliens who qualify. 

Example: Washington H.1087 requires that on Dec. 1, 2011, and annually thereafter, the Department of Social and Health Services must report to the legislature on all sources of funding available for both refugee and immigrant services and naturalization services during the current fiscal year and the amounts expended to date by service type and funding source. The report must include the number of clients served and outcome data. 


Thirteen laws were enacted in 9 states: Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.  Two additional laws are pending governor’s approvals in California and Oregon. 

These laws generally address in-state tuition eligibility and financial assistance. 

Example : Indiana H.1402 states that a person unlawfully present in the United States is ineligible to pay the resident tuition rate. 

Example : Maryland S.167 and Connecticut H.6390 permit certain unauthorized immigrant students to be eligible for in-state tuition.   For more information, please see NCSL’s publication at


EMPLOYMENT (20; 2 vetoed)

Twenty laws were enacted in 13 states and Puerto Rico: Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Two laws were vetoed from Maine and New Jersey. One additional law is pending governor’s approval in Iowa. 

Many of these laws provide employer sanctions related to the hiring of unauthorized workers, employment eligibility verification requirements and penalties. These laws also include measures on unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation.  

E-Verify legislation was enacted in 10 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. For additional information on E-Verify, please see NCSL’s publication at

Example : Mississippi S.2238 states employment benefits are only payable to lawfully present individuals.

Example: Virginia S.1471 establishes the Interagency Migrant Worker Policy Committee to serve the interests of migrant and seasonal farmworkers and employees.


HEALTH (16; 2 vetoed)

Sixteen laws were enacted in 13 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.  Two laws were vetoed from Minnesota and New Mexico. Six additional laws are pending governor’s approvals in Illinois, Iowa, New York, and Oregon. 

These laws generally address eligibility for health care benefits and licensing of health care professionals and interpreters. 

Example: Nebraska L19 requires customers to show a valid driver's license, a Nebraska state identification card, a military identification card, an alien registration card, or a passport as proof of identification in order to obtain ephedrine-based drugs. 

Example : Nevada S.440 creates the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange and allows participation by an alien who is lawfully present in the United States.



Four laws were enacted in 4 states: Georgia, Kansas, Texas, and Vermont. 

These laws add definitions relating to human trafficking, human smuggling and forced labor, create new state penalties and offer assistance to victims. 

Example: Georgia H.200 addresses human trafficking, sexual servitude and their crimes and offenses. Sex trafficking is punishable by imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than 20 years and a fine not to exceed $100,000. A person may not destroy, conceal or remove passports or other immigration documents.



Twenty-three laws were enacted in 15 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. One additional law is pending governor’s approval in Illinois. 

These laws relate to documentation and eligibility requirements for IDs and driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and firearm and hunting/fishing licenses. 

Example: Arizona H.2102 requires agencies to only issue a license, fingerprint clearance card, or any state ID to a person who provides photo ID proof of citizenship or alien status. 

Example: Montana H.178 requires that the DMV use the SAVE program to verify a driver's license or an ID applicant's lawful presence.


LAW ENFORCEMENT (42; 3 laws vetoed)

Thirty-eight laws were enacted in 19 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.  Three laws were vetoed from Minnesota, Montana, and New Mexico. 

These laws generally deal with collaboration with federal law enforcement agencies, immigrant detention processes, bail determinations and law enforcement officer responsibilities.   Several states enacted sex offender registration, requiring proof of citizenship or immigration documents: Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Utah. 

Example: Arizona S.1406 allows the governor to enter a compact with other states to provide construction and maintenance for a secure fence along the Arizona-Mexico border. 

Example: Virginia H2330 establishes a criminal information exchange program with willing states that share a border with Canada or Mexico. Information areas include drugs, gangs, unlawful presence, and terrorism. It also requires cooperation with federal law enforcement agencies.


MISCELLANEOUS (9; 2 vetoed)

Nine laws were enacted in 7 states: Colorado, Maryland, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.  Two laws were vetoed from Arizona and New Jersey. One additional law is pending governor’s approval in Illinois. 

These laws address immigration-related issues like housing assistance, tax withholdings, and studies. The studies show the impact immigrants have on the state. 

 Example:  Utah H.466 enacts the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration Act, addresses integration of immigrants in the state, and provides for the creation of the Migrant Worker Visa Pilot Program. It also commissions a study of the impact of illegal immigration on Utah.



Six laws were enacted in 5 states: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah. 

Omnibus bills include multiple topics in one bill such as immigration law enforcement, employment verification, human trafficking, and verification of lawful status for public benefits.  

For descriptions of these omnibus laws, please see NCSL’s publication at


PUBLIC BENEFITS (11; 1 vetoed)

Eleven laws were enacted in ten states: California, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania,  Virginia, and Washington. 

These laws typically relate eligibility and verification of immigration status for public benefits, such as requiring proof of lawful presence in the United States or extending benefits for certain refugee or immigrant populations. Some require state agencies to use certain eligibility verification systems or to deny public benefits to unauthorized immigrants. Some make funds available for certain immigrants and refugees. One law was vetoed from Montana. 

Example : Montana H. 638 allows the state to deny services to an illegal alien to the extent allowed by federal laws and the Montana constitution. A state agency shall require a person seeking a state service to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or legal alien status. This act is submitted for 2013 if approved by voters on the 2012 ballot. 

Example : Indiana S.465 establishes a county domestic violence fatality review team and provides migrant child care if domestic violence is found.



Three laws were enacted in 3 states: Alabama, Kansas and Utah. One additional law is pending governor’s approval in California. 

Bills address regulations regarding voter registration, including verification of citizenship. 

Example : Kansas H.2067 requires proof of U.S. citizenship to vote. 

Example : Utah S.165 identifies acceptable forms of valid voter identification. They include a valid driver's license, ID card, U.S. passport, birth certificate, social security card, naturalization documents, or financial statements.



Ninety-five resolutions and memorials were adopted in 24 states: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii,  Illinois, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.  

Most of these resolutions and memorials celebrate America's ethnic heritage and other programs or individuals that serve refugees or immigrants. Six of the resolutions urge the President or Congress to act on an immigration matter. 

Example: North Dakota HCR.3045 directs Legislative Management to study the feasibility and desirability of requiring private or public employers or both to use the federal E-Verify program for new hires. 

Example: Virginia HJR.822 commends those who have immigrated to the United States while adhering to the immigration and citizenship laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

Example: Vermont HJR.14 urges Congress and the U.S. Departments of Labor and of Homeland Security to authorize H-2A visas for 12-month agricultural workers. 

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Prepared by:

Joy Segreto, Summer Fellow; April Carter, Spring Fellow, and
Ann Morse, Program Director, Immigrant Policy Project, NCSL 


Sheri Steisel, Federal Affairs Counsel, NCSL
Molly Ramsdell, Director, Washington Office, NCSL
Neal Osten, Director, Washington 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.