State Laws on Immigration Swell in 2015

By Roy Maurer Mar 2, 2016

State legislatures enacted 216 immigration laws in 2015, 20 of which focused on employment, according to a report released by the National Conference of State Legislatures. That is a 26 percent increase from the total of 171 enacted in 2014.

In addition, 274 resolutions related to immigration were adopted. Governors vetoed 24 bills.

The fewer immigration laws in 2014 was attributed in part to some states, such as Texas, not being in legislative session that year.

Texas was the most active state in 2015 with 84 resolutions and 15 laws, followed by California with 66 laws and 2 resolutions. Alaska was the sole state that did not enact any immigration-related legislation in 2015.

20 Employment Laws Passed

According to the report, 11 states—Alabama, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and Washington—enacted the 20 employment-related immigration laws last year.

The laws address eligibility for unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, work authorization and E-Verify, workforce investment activities, and employer retaliation.

Examples include:

  • California stipulating that anyone, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
  • California passing a law prohibiting employers from using the E-Verify system to screen existing employees or applicants who have not received an offer of employment.
  • Illinois allowing the Illinois Supreme Court to grant licenses to practice law to individuals who otherwise meet the state’s law-practicing requirements, have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival status and have work authorization.
  • North Carolina amending the state’s requirement for government contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify by including an E-Verify provision in the contract. The state also now prohibits cities and counties from adopting sanctuary ordinances that would limit enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The U.S. Congress is unlikely to address any major immigration legislation this year.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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