Even though a judge ruled that it could not be implemented, Arizona’s immigration law, SB1070, has sparked a great deal of activity across the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s not the type of activity that’s going to result in meaningful solutions.
In Arizona, state legislators have decided not to “tweak” SB1070 in response to the July 28th preliminary injunction which enjoined key parts of the law. SB1070 sponsor Sen. Russell Pearce has vowed to continue his attacks on mothers and children, proposing to charge the children of undocumented immigrants for public education and working with Members of Congress to deny birthright citizenship to them. Rallies and protests supporting and opposing Arizona’s law continue to take place, and over 50 states and localities have passed resolutions opposing SB1070.
But activity continues well beyond Arizona. According to research compiled by the Reform Immigration for America Campaign, since the passage of Arizona’s law, legislators in 22 states have publicly stated that they intend to introduce similar legislation: Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
Legislation has already been introduced in five of those states – Michigan, South Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. However, none have made it very far. The Rhode Island and South Carolina legislatures adjourned before the bills could be considered. A petition drive to bring Arizona-style legislation to the Nevada legislature was halted when several lawsuits were brought against the measure. In Kansas, an immigration bill was raised as an amendment to the budget bill, but was ultimately ruled out of order.
In Utah, State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom says his Arizona-style bill can withstand any legal challenge. But other legislators are considering a very different proposal – measures to help integrate undocumented immigrants into the community if they pay a fine and learn English. Another element of the integration plan being discussed is a guestworker program that would allow undocumented immigrants to work legally in Utah – and employers to legally employ them.
In Florida, Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum (R) proposed his own Arizona-style legislation. The proposed law would require immigrants to carry valid immigration documents and would allow judges to penalize unauthorized immigrants more harshly than legal immigrants and citizens who commit the same crimes. McCollum’s legislation would also mandate that Florida businesses use the E-Verify program.
In the meantime, state legislators are visiting Arizona to get advice on drafting their own laws. Delegations from Utah, Tennessee, and Colorado have traveled to Phoenix in recent days.
Unfortunately, all of this activity at the state level is not going to bring about meaningful reform and is not what Americans want. A recent Politico poll found that Americans are still hungry for comprehensive immigration reform:
The scarcity of jobs, the growth of the Latino vote and the legislation in Arizona have all contributed to creating an atmosphere in which the public says that progress on this issue is overdue. Fifty-nine percent of the general population wants to see action on meaningful reform, and so do 76 percent of D.C. elites. More notable in today’s partisan climate is that reform gets the nod from Democrats and independents in equal measure (61 percent of both think Congress should “pass comprehensive immigration law guidelines now”) and that 59 percent of Republicans agree as well.
We’ve said it many times, and we’ll say it again. It’s time for President Obama and Congress to get a clue. All of this activity should be interpreted as a cry for help to our policymakers in Washington. Just like $600 million more for the border isn’t a real solution, a patchwork of state laws is not going to resolve our immigration problems. Fair, practical, and comprehensive immigration reform is needed now.
Photo by deltaMike