The Rally Against State Immigration Legislation Continues

Washington Post article last week highlighted what many state business groups, law enforcement officers and concerned legislatures have been cautioning for months—at a time of economic uncertainty, states simply cannot afford the costly legal battles and political backlash caused by Arizona-style immigration legislation. Over the past month, SB1070 copycat bills in ColoradoFloridaGeorgiaIndiana, Kentucky, Nebraska,PennsylvaniaSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexas, and Utah, have been met with considerable hesitation and criticism from constituents worried about the social and economic impact on their state. Some states, like Mississippiand Wyoming, have even rejected initial versions of copycat bills due to high costs. But as other states consider enforcement legislation (California joined the fray this week, as did Georgia’s state Senate), those worried about how enforcement legislation will cost their state feel they can no longer afford to be quiet.

Outside Nebraska’s state capital, more than 300 protesters rallied against the state’s proposed Arizona-style bill (LB48), introduced earlier this month by stateSen. Charlie Janssen. Protestors, who carried signs reading “What Happens in Arizona Stays in Arizona” and “Do the Right Thing,” said that the Arizona-style enforcement law does not reflect most Nebraskans feelings. Nebraska’s NAACP said the bill would cause “harm and humiliation to many Nebraskans,” while religious groups, like the Nebraska United Methodist Church, said the bill would create an underclass of people, something that would tear “at the fabric of our common life.”

But Nebraska’s not the only state where people are riled up. Faith and humanitarian groups in Kentucky are planning to protest SB6 (which passed the Senate this week? but is not expected to pass the House) outside the state capital in Frankfurt next week. Kentucky taxpayers may be reacting to a recent fiscal impact study indicating that Kentucky’s SB1070 copycat law would cost the state $40 million per year—a hefty sum considering Kentucky is already facing a $780 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2011.

California joined the enforcement fray this week when Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) moved on AB 26, which would allow (not require) California law enforcement to make a “reasonable attempt” to verify someone’s immigration status. Local advocates like Jorge-Mario Cabrera of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), however, pointed to California’s fiscal bottom line when criticizing AB 26, which he said “offers no practical solutions for the state’s fiscal or immigration concerns.”

Georgia Republican state senators introduced SB 40 this week, a controversial billcausing a stir among Georgia’s business and agricultural groups. Last week, state Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) introduced HB 87 in the lower chamber.

Advocates and religious leaders aren’t the only groups who think these laws are a bad idea—some in state legislatures are balking at state enforcement efforts. Earlier this week, the Mississippi Senate rejected a House version of an Arizona-style enforcement bill over sections “county and city officials worried would open them up to lawsuits” and “stiff penalties for businesses.” The Wyoming House also rejectedan SB 1070 copycat bill after members of the business and industry community, including the Wyoming Contractors Association and the Wyoming Lodging & Restaurant Association, spoke out against the bill—a trend likely to continue.

Although these state copycat laws aren’t permanently halted, Ann Morse, Immigrant Policy Project at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said she wouldn’t be surprised to see “more state task forces looking more fully at this issue. Although the interest is still there,” she said, “many states are looking at the implications” of these laws.

seth hoyAnd rightfully so. Vivek Malhotra, Advocacy and Policy Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sums up the problem well:

In many states across the country, constitutionally suspect, discriminatory bills are becoming a distraction from pressing needs that the legislature actually has some control over, like balancing budgets or stimulating job growth. The federal court’s decision to block core provisions in Arizona’s racial-profiling law is having a deterrent effect on other states considering copycat bills. They know this unconstitutional approach to immigration enforcement is likely to embroil them in costly litigation at the taxpayer’s expense.

Until people honestly consider how these copycat laws will affect their own fiscal bottom lines—states with ailing budgets are only going to enforce themselves in the same tired and costly circle without really solving our federal immigration problems.

Seth Hoy
Immigration Impact


  1. hwood007 says

    If you see something that needs to be corrected, good, provide a solution so we can see if it might work. We have laws against shooting store clerks and I do not want to change that. We have laws against people from other countries coming to America without permission. Guess what, all the other countries I have visited, five west of the west cost and six east of the east coast, would not let me in without the proper documents. Same law that apply here. live with it.

  2. says

    “members of the business and industry community, including the Wyoming Contractors Association and the Wyoming Lodging & Restaurant Association, spoke out against the bill—a trend likely to continue.”

    Of course they would speak out against these bills. Building trades and hospitality are major employers of undocumented workers. Oh my, if we get rid of undocumented workers they might have to actually respect workers right and be held accountable for the employment practices!

  3. says

    I once heard a fantastic quote about big business bringing illegals over in the first place and liberals keeping them here.

    The slaves fought to get off the plantation, now we have people fighting for the rights of undocumented workers (not a very ‘workers rights’ predicament to find yourself in) to work for unlivable wages. Its a sneaky way to avoid hiring the (legal) blacks and ‘hillbillies’. Black people and hillbillies tend to know their rights and want them respected. An undocumented worker feels lucky just to have a job and probably won’t complain if you don’t pay overtime and short them a few hours on their paycheck.

    Just bring up people willing to pay a few grand to drug cartels to bring them up here so they can work for you and graciously answer ‘por supuesto senor’, or whatever Eastern European equivalent to that is, to whatever you ask them to do. I mean, they’re just foreigners right? They should do our landscaping, work on building sites, wash the dishes and cook the foods in our restaurants and pick our crops. They’re just as good as slaves. Aren’t us civilized Americans being gracious to let them into our cultured society? And, there will probably be a raid anyways to turn the staff over conveniently from time to time so no one gets comfortable 😉

    NAFTA put many small Mexican farmers out of business. They couldn’t compete with subsidized US agribusiness. Now, they get to come up here and work as slaves for those same companies that screwed them in the first place.

    How do we stop it? Put stiff penalties on those hiring undocumented workers. Civil rights organizations are opposing such legislation in Arizona though. Que? Also, reduce the incentive to come here. Believe me, Juan, Jose, Miguel and Domingo don’t really want to come here (leaving their families behind in Mexico) to work for peanuts. Maybe we should focus on changing our trade policies with Mexico rather than fighting for the right to keep our new slave class. I actively search out ‘fair trade’ products but am opposed to ‘free trade': They’re not the same thing.

    AND – I am stunned how people who support extended benefits for the unemployed will say illegals are just here doing jobs ‘Americans won’t do.’ OK, so does that mean all those unemployed people are just lazy? Or are there really no jobs? And if there are no jobs, why do we need undocumented workers to fill them? How do the ‘liberals’ reconcile these two issues that are definitely at odds with each other?

    Please fully examine your stance on this issue. Being part of a legal immigrant family who can’t find work, I am very much against ignoring an undocumented slave class that is working effectively to scab against basic workers rights and minimum wage laws. Ask yourself this: Who really benefits from allowing illegal workers in the country?

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