The number of employment-related immigration bills that state legislatures enacted in 2012 declined from 2011, according to a report the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released Jan. 29, 2013.
In 2012 Immigration-Related Laws and Resolutions in the States, the NCSL said states put immigration “on the back burner” while focusing on budget deficits and redistricting. In addition, the NCSL said, states “hit the pause button” because they were awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2492 (2012).
Last year 13 states enacted 14 employment-related immigration laws, down from 27 in 2011. Five of those laws—in Georgia, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and West Virginia—address E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic employment-eligibility verification system. The NCSL said budget-focused laws passed in Georgia, Michigan and South Carolina also address E-Verify, as does the omnibus law passed in Alabama.
Alabama was the only state to pass an omnibus immigration law in 2012, amending its earlier omnibus law, H.B. 56. The original law was challenged by several groups and on several grounds, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in August 2012, struck down several of its clauses, including the employment provisions (United States v. Alabama, 691 F.3d 1269 [11th Cir. 2012]).
According to the NCSL, Alabama’s H.B. 658 amends the H.B. 56 provision making it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to engage in a business transaction with the state by defining “business transaction” as applying for or renewing a motor-vehicle license plate, a driver’s license or non-driver identification card, or a business, commercial or professional license. It does not apply to a marriage license or housing.
H.B. 658 also requires state contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify, although prime contractors are not responsible for their subcontractors’ use of the system unless they know the subcontractor is not complying with the law.
Other employment laws enacted in 2012 include a Massachusetts law (S. 2342) that bars individuals from public contracts if they are convicted of employing undocumented workers; New Hampshire’s H. 158, which provides a private cause of action for those whose Social Security numbers have been used fraudulently, but also provides an affirmative defense for employers that use E-Verify; and Pennsylvania’s S. 637, which requires public-works contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify.
In addition, seven states—Florida, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia—enacted nine laws related to human trafficking, the NCSL said. The laws pertain to both domestic and foreign human trafficking victims.
Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., is SHRM’s senior legal editor.