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State Immigration Laws Rebounded in 2013

By Roy Maurer  1/24/2014

In 2013 states increased the number of immigration-related laws and resolutions they passed by 64 percent over the previous year, according to a Jan. 21, 2014, report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The 2013 tally included 184 laws enacted and 253 resolutions adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia, for a total of 437. There were 267 laws and resolutions enacted in 2012. Minus the resolutions, state-enacted legislation rose 18 percent from 2012, with 184 laws compared with 156 the previous year. Only five states did not enact immigration-related legislation in 2013: Delaware, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire and Wyoming.

State immigration legislation in 2013 seemed to shift from a focus on immigration law enforcement measures to expanded state benefits for immigrants, observed Ann Morse, program director for the Immigrant Policy Project at the NCSL.

Two major actions precipitating the shift, she said, were the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States, which struck down several provisions related to law enforcement, and the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which offers young unauthorized immigrants a temporary stay from deportation, along with permission to work.

Regulations concerning driver’s licenses and IDs continued to be a top issue, with 35 laws enacted in 21 states, representing 19 percent of all state-enacted laws on immigration. Driver’s license eligibility was extended to undocumented residents of eight states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont. Georgia passed a measure allowing those with pending visa extensions to obtain a temporary driver’s permit, while Maine approved a bill exempting certain older or long-term driver’s license holders from the legal-presence requirement.

Budget and appropriations laws authorizing funds for immigration enforcement, employment services, and English-language and citizenship classes made up 14 percent of this year’s total.

Legislation related to law enforcement and regulation of notary publics and immigration lawyers also accounted for 14 percent of the total.

Resolutions spiked in 2013, with 253 of these adopted by 31 states, up from 111 in 2012. Texas led the way, adopting 96 resolutions. Many states’ resolutions called for federal government action on immigration matters, and 11 were related to passing comprehensive immigration reform.

States Address E-Verify, Retaliation, Workers’ Comp

Of state laws passed in 2013, 11 percent were focused on employment, such as eligibility for unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and the enforcement of work authorization. Some new measures limited employment to citizens or legal permanent residents or addressed the state’s role in EB-5 investor visas.

Twelve states—California, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia—enacted 21 employment-related laws.
California enacted a series of measures addressing employer retaliation and the immigration status of workers, making it illegal to make threats tied to immigration status as a means to engage in wage theft or in response to a worker’s exercising his or her labor rights, such as complaining about working conditions or sexual harassment.

North Carolina clarified that no public agency may enter into a contract unless the contractor and the contractor’s subcontractors comply with employment verification requirements.

Tennessee passed a bill prohibiting the acquisition of goods or services from any person who knowingly employs undocumented immigrants.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

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