According to the president, a state-by-state patchwork of immigration laws is “unacceptable.” Yet states--not to mention cities, towns, and counties--across the country continue to propose, debate, and pass immigration-related legislation at a record pace. Arizona may be getting most of the attention now, but states and localities have been addressing the issue--from the standpoint of law enforcement, health, education, housing, and identification--for years.
The practice is so rampant there’s a whole new book just out on the subject (disclaimer: I co-authored one of the chapters). Its description: "Drawing on high profile case studies, the contributors seek to explain the explosion in state and local immigration policy activism, account for the policies that have been considered and passed, and explore the tensions that have emerged within communities and between different levels of government as a result."
Since 2005, the National Council of State Legislatures has been tracking this stuff systematically at the state level (see map after the jump). They recently released a report detailing legislative action through the first half of 2010, state by state, topic by topic. So far this year, only six states have not passed anything related to immigration, and the legislatures in four of those states (Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas) were not in regular session in 2010. The other two (Delaware and North Carolina) have introduced bills but have not enacted anything so far.
As of the end of June, 314 laws and resolutions had been enacted by 44 states, a 21 percent increase over the same time period last year, and a 65 percent increase over the first half of 2008. The 2007 level of activity was more than double that of 2006; likewise, 2006 saw more state-level activity around immigration legislation than 2005.
Clearly, this is an issue that states and localities feel the need to address, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Federal immigration reform will not cover all of the issues being faced at the local level, but if ever enacted it should help them navigate the complexities of immigration more easily without feeling the need for piecemeal measures.