With Congress and the White House deadlocked on immigration, state legislatures have filled the void with a flurry of bills, making it one of the hottest state issues in 2007.
According to a new survey released by the National Conference on State Legislatures, immigration bills have surfaced in every state -- at least 1169 bills and resolutions related to immigration or immigrants and refugees in all. This is more than twice the total number of introduced bills (570) in 2006.
Issues around benefits, employment and law enforcement are the biggest; there have also been 104 resolution counseling federal lawmakers on what to do. As might be expected, the vast majority are measures aimed at limiting immigration or curtailing access of benefits to immigrants.
Out of the 1,000+ bills up for discussion, only 57 have been enacted so far. Some examples from the South:
Arkansas H 1024 - Prohibits state agencies from contracting with businesses that employ illegal immigrants.
South Carolina S 531 - Requests the Governor to declare by Executive Order that no illegal alien is eligible to receive public benefits.
Virginia H 1673 - Creates the Commission on Immigration as an advisory commission.
As for resolutions, Arkansas passed a typical non-binding measure: HR 1003, which Addresses the President of the United States and Congress to secure our nations borders and to develop a comprehensive immigration policy.
Clearly, the failure of national lawmakers to articulate a federal immigration policy isn't causing the issue to go away -- it's just being displaced to state legislatures, where, especially in Sunbelt states, conservative policy-making is gaining the upper hand.