States legislate immigration at an alarming rate OR why state anti-immigration bills are a pox on our house
The National Conference of State Legislatures does a great job of tracking and summarizing state-level immigration legislation in the US. They recently released a summary of state-level immigration legislation in 2007...
Over the last 3 years we have seen an increasingly alarming trend: in 2005 approximately 125 pieces of legislation concerning immigration were introduced into state legsilatures, in 2006 570 bills were introduced (the overwhelming majority of which were anti-immigrant) and in the first few months of 2007 (only four to be exact) 1169 bills have already been introduced.
Frankly, this number is shocking, and is one that we must all sit up and take notice of. In the last four months 57 bills pertaining to immigration have been passed- almost 2/3 of the enacted legilsation in 2006. Most of this legislation is, again, anti-immigrant. Many of these bills attempt to make the state regulate immigration, local law enforcement enforce federal immgiration law, and block immigrants and their families from access to jobs and benefits. Get the full report HERE
Though it may not be the sexiest topic in the immigrant rights movement, state-level anti-immigrant legislation is a critical problem for us all. The simple reason is that immigration is a federal issue, and state governments should not be legislating it. True. But that's not the reason I'm concerned about it, and that's not the reason why millions of americans should be too. The real problem lies in the facts that:
1) Americans make their decisions about policy in their own backyards. If anti-immigrant rhetoric and laws are given support at the state/local level, we will loose or fail to grow the electoral base that will fight for immigrant rights at the federal level.
2) Anti-immigrant legislation is bad for states. Period. Anti-immigrant legislation divides communities, destroys families, and it sows the seeds of fear throughout a state. Anti-immigrant legislation goes against the very values of welcoming and prosperity that most states trive to promote.
3) Anti-immigrant legislation in one state tends to spread to others. I've written about this several times, but the trend is clear- states are copy-catting eachother's anti-immigrant legislative inventions. It may not be important to Montana if Oklahoma passes an anti-immigrant bill, but it will be if the Montana state legislature tries to pass a similar bill in their next legislative session.
I bet you've got your own reasons why these bills are bad for America- share them here- or tell us what ugly legislation your fighting in YOUR backyard.