How States Broke the Record on Immigration Bills in 2011

Earlier this month, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Alabama’s H.B. 56, which is considered the nation’s most harsh state-level immigration-enforcement law. It grants police broad powers to detain people they suspect are undocumented, makes it a crime to aide undocumented persons, bars sanctuary policies, and forces school to check students’ immigration status among other things.

But Alabama’s immigration law is only one of hundreds enacted this year by state legislatures. With the immigration reform debate stalled in Washington, state lawmakers–particularly those on the right–have moved aggressively to fill the void.

Lawmakers from all 50 states introduced a recording-breaking 1,592 bills and resolutions dealing with immigration in the first half of 2011, according to a new report from the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. Of the bills introduced, 151 laws and 95 resolutions passed in 40 state legislatures and Puerto Rico. An additional 10 bills were waiting to be signed off by state governors as of June 30.

New identification and driver’s licenses rules, employment restrictions, and expansion of law enforcement powers have been the leading issues in legislation. Nines states enacted E-Verify requirements and several state bills included a citizenship check for sex offender registries. Meanwhile, Maryland and Connecticut passed laws that made undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition. And five states have passed laws similar to Arizona’s SB1070 in the first half of 2011–Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah–several of which have already been challenged in court

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