by Alex Fitzsimmons
Over the last few years, immigration has been one of the hottest topics in state legislatures across the country. But a new report from NCSL’s Immigrant Policy Project reveals a 44 percent decrease in the number of immigration related bills introduced from this time last year.
There are several explanations for the drop-off. First, five states that had legislative sessions in 2011 did not go into session this year, accounting for approximately one-third of the decrease. Other reasons for the decrease include states’ focus on closing budget gaps and redistricting, and the fact that some states had sufficiently dealt with immigration issues in 2011. States are also anxiously awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. United States for guidance on how to proceed.
“There has been a drop-off from the peak we’ve seen over the last four years, but there is still significant interest in the states” said Ann Morse, Program Director of NCSL’s Immigrant Policy Project. “I anticipate states will re-enter the field and respond after the Supreme Court ruling.”
According to the report, 865 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees were introduced in 45 state legislatures and the District of Columbia in the first quarter of 2012. This number represents a 44 percent decrease from this point last year, when 1,538 bills were introduced. Bill enactments also dropped 30 percent, with 98 total bills and resolutions being adopted in the first quarter of 2012.
Although the report found that law enforcement (125) and employment (119) were the top areas of interest for the first quarter of 2012, states had proposed 267 of the former and 279 of the latter by this time last year. That’s a drop of 55 and 57 percent, respectively.
Examples of enacted legislation include a bill in Indiana (SB 262) that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal alien, making it a Class D felony if more than nine people are involved. In Utah, HB 97 adds human trafficking, human smuggling and aggravated human trafficking to the list of offenses that can constitute racketeering, provided the offenses are conducted as a pattern of unlawful activity.
This report examines state legislation introduced in 2012 and provides examples of enacted laws and adopted resolutions. In August, NCSL will release another report summarizing in detail all enacted legislation from January through June. The December year-end report summarizes all laws and resolutions enacted, and highlights examples of new laws and trends.