Immigrant Policy Project

July 24, 2008

State Laws Related to Immigrants and Immigration

January 1 – June 30, 2008

State legislatures continue tackling immigration in a variety of policy arenas at an unprecedented rate.  So far this year, 1267 bills have been considered in 45 state legislatures and at least 175 laws and resolutions have been enacted in 39 states.  A total of 190 bills and resolutions have passed legislatures, 12 bills are pending Governor’s approval and three bills were vetoed.

The 2008 level of activity is comparable to the same time last year, when 1404 bills and resolutions were considered in all fifty states, and 182 laws were enacted in 43 states.  As in recent years, the top three areas of interest are identification/driver’s license (203 bills introduced – 30 laws enacted), employment (198 bills introduced – 18 laws enacted), and law enforcement (214 bills introduced - 10 laws enacted).

States continue to employ a range of enforcement and integration approaches.  For example, one state created a pilot guest worker program to expedite the approval of foreign workers under the federal H-2A visa program and another state revisited employment-related legislation passed last year.  One state makes legal immigrant children and pregnant women eligible for SCHIP. Another aims to address the needs of the Asian Pacific American community through English language instruction, health access and economic development.  One state expanded its definition of smuggling of human beings to include the use of so-called “drop houses.”  Several states commissioned studies to investigate the economic and fiscal impacts of immigration, including state remedies to recover money owed to the state by the federal government.  Three states passed omnibus legislation addressing issues such as employment, law enforcement, public benefits, legal services and identification/licensing.

Six states did not conduct regular sessions in 2008:  Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Texas. However, Arkansas, Nevada and Oregon held special sessions to address gas taxes and gubernatorial appointments (in Arkansas) and budgets (in Nevada and Oregon). Oregon passed legislation related to immigrants during special session.

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

In 2005, 300 bills were introduced and 38 laws were enacted.
In 2006, activity doubled: 570 bills were introduced and 84 laws were enacted.
In 2007, activity tripled: 1,562 bills were introduced and 240 laws were enacted.

This report provides brief summaries of state laws enacted in 2008 that 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.

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Last updated on July 24, 2008


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