State Laws Related to Immigration and Immigrants



NCSL tracks and reports on state laws and resolutions that address legal immigrants, migrant and seasonal workers, refugees and unauthorized immigrants. The report identifies and summarizes all laws and resolutions enacted, and highlights examples of new laws or trends. (Terms used in these reports 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.)

2020 Report

Enacted legislation related to immigration decreased in 2020 by 30% to 127 laws, compared with 181 laws in 2019. The number of resolutions decreased by 41% to 79 from 135 in 2019. Many state legislatures took a break from the topic of immigration in 2020 as the pandemic and economic crises created new priorities for legislative action. States offered pandemic relief, including health care for immigrant seniors, tenant protections and extension of eligibility for public benefits. States also continued working on professional licenses for immigrants, regardless of immigration status.

2019 Report

Enacted legislation related to immigration increased in 2019 by 3% to 181 laws, compared with 175 laws in 2018. Trends included the 2020 census, offices or task forces on immigration, occupational licensing, driver’s licenses, and sanctuary policies/immigration enforcement.

2018 Report

In 2018, enacted legislation related to immigration decreased by 15 percent to 175 laws compared with 206 laws in 2017. Lawmakers in 44 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico enacted 175 laws and 222 resolutions related to immigration, for a total of 397. Trends in 2018 included occupational licensing, sanctuary policies, refugees, and education/civics.

2017 Report

In 2017, enacted legislation related to immigration increased by 110 percent to 206 laws compared with 98 laws in 2016. Lawmakers in 49 states enacted 206 laws and 263 resolutions related to immigration, for a total of 469. Trends in 2017 included sanctuary policies, refugees, education/civics and instate tuition.

2016 Report

In 2016, enacted legislation related to immigration decreased by 55 percent to 98 compared with 216 laws in 2015. The number of resolutions dropped by 37 percent to 172 from 274. Lawmakers in 43 states enacted 98 laws and 172 resolutions related to immigration, for a total of 270. An additional 14 bills were vetoed by governors and two were pending signatures.

Immigration Database

Previous Immigrant Policy Project Reports

Additional Resources