Flurry of Immigration Bills Go Nowhere in Most States

Though immigration bills have been introduced in almost every state of the United States, very few have become law, Fox News Latino reports. 

According to the news website, the reasons for the small number of measures placed into law are a combination of unease within the business community over the consequences of some of the measures, increased political understanding of immigration activist groups, and shifting public attention.  Lawmakers turned their focus away from many of the impending immigration bills and towards pressing budget crises, while some business owners worried about extra mounds of paperwork and losing labor.

Louisiana State Rep. Joe Harrison drafted an immigration bill that didn’t pass. According to the site, Harrison said federal inaction fueled his interest in state laws on immigration.  The Republican’s sentiments reflect nationwide frustration over the failure by the White House of U.S. Congress to address illegal immigration. "I'm just trying to give them a little Taser move in the right direction," he said. 

Only Utah and Georgia have passed comprehensive bills so far. Georgia’s new law allows local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of a suspect who cannot produce an accepted form of identification.  The bill, which was signed by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal earlier this month, includes a provision requiring employers with more than ten employees to use E-Verify, a federal database, by July 2013. South Carolina and Alabama are still considering immigration bills.  

After the failure of the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to legalization for qualified undocumented immigrant students and other young adults, several states adopted legislation that help this group.  Connecticut expanded in-state tuition for graduate school, Maryland approved in-state college tuition, and Illinois is likely to establish a private scholarship fund for those who would have benefited from the DREAM Act passage. Indiana passed a law prohibiting in-state tuition for those in the country illegally.

Many experts claim businesses are at fault for much of the legislations’ failure.  Tamar Jacoby, who heads ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of mostly small-business owners who support immigration reform, said many businesses opposed E-Verify and that many came out of the woodwork in a way they hadn’t done before in opposition to the measures.

On the other side of the debate are immigrants and their supporters, who have used the networks they have developed within recent years to defend their position.  Farm workers, activists, students and other immigrants in Florida spent weeks in prayer and protest during committee hearings.  A YouTube clip of Republican State Rep. Virgil Peck in Kansas comparing undocumented immigrants to wild hogs caused an uproar that affected bills in that state.

The DREAM Act was re-introduced last week by Democratic senators in Washington.  It is unlikely to pass the Republican-led House, Fox News Latino reports, and certainly not before the 2012 election.