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Immigration Proposals are Back in States

Ian Scott on Monday, February 16, 2009 at 5:27:37 pm

If you've been distracted over the past few weeks by the stimulus package and other belt-loop drama (e.g., Sen. Gregg's withdrawal from Commerce) you are not alone.  It seems all eyes are intently watching for Washington's next move, and for good reason.  But with nearly every state legislature in session, there are dozens of state and local issues in play too.  Immigration is a prime example.

Already this year, legislatures in at least four states - Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, and Wyoming - are considering bills that would put the onus on local businesses to enforce immigration laws.  The bills are modeled on the Arizona Fair and Legal Employment Act and the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, both passed in 2007.  The Arizona bill mandates use of the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify program and establishes stiff penalties, including business license suspension, for employers who employ an illegal immigrant.  The Oklahoma bill, which is currently under injunction in federal court, makes it a felony to provide shelter, employment or transportation to an illegal immigrant.

There are numerous problems with state and local immigration legislation.  Primary among them is that state-by-state immigration regulation is not comprehensive national immigration reform.  Individual state laws can not address the national security and workforce issues that are inextricably linked with immigration. Furthermore, cities and states that pass punitive immigration bills can damage their reputation as diverse, inclusive places that are open to foreign trade and investment.   There are other concerns, such as E-Verify's estimated 10% error, opening the potential for litigation by legal workers who are denied employment.  Also, overlapping, and sometimes conflicting, state immigration regulations create a compliance minefield for companies operating in multiple states.

These days it is important to pay attention daily (hourly?) to everything going on in Washington DC.  But it is equally important to keep a close eye on your state house.

For more information on state level immigration proposals, see the links below.

Nebraska - E-Verify bill puts onus on employers
Arkansas - Capitol Round-up: Sample Files Sweeping Immigration Bill
Wyoming - LAWMAKERS SAY 'NO' TO HARSH ENFORCEMENT BILL

For more information on state level immigration bills check out ImmigrationWorksUSA.org

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