Monday, August 06, 2007

America finally gets immigration reform -- state by state

America finally gets immigration reform -- state by state
Copyright by The Associated Press
August 6, 2007

BOSTON -- State lawmakers are increasingly stepping into the void created by the failure of Congress to approve sweeping changes to immigration policy, a new report finds.

Legislatures have passed bills dealing with a range of immigration issues, from employment and health care to driver's licenses and human trafficking -- creating a sometimes uneven patchwork quilt of immigration law across the country:

• • Arkansas approved a law barring state agencies from contracting with businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

• • Louisiana has a new law barring the state from issuing driver's licenses to foreigners until their criminal background has been checked.

• • Oregon made it illegal for anyone other than lawyers to perform immigration consultation work.

In the first six months of the year, 171 immigration bills became law in 41 states. That's more than double the 84 laws approved in all of 2006.

More than half of the states have considered bills seeking to toughen or clarify laws related to driver's licenses or other identification. Nineteen have studied immigration laws that would affect the ability of immigrants to find jobs.

While the states have been taking action, Congress failed this summer to pass President Bush's immigration plan, which would have legalized as many as 12 million unlawful immigrants.

Though immigration previously was largely a concern of border states, it has quickly become a national concern, and lawmakers in all 50 states are weighing legislation this year, according to Sheri Steisel of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

''Given the absence of federal consensus of national immigration reform, state legislators are stepping into the void and doing their best,'' Steisel said.

However, their newly enacted policies don't always agree, she said.

While Arizona lawmakers passed a bill requiring employers to use a new federal database to avoid hiring illegal immigrants, lawmakers in Illinois passed a bill barring businesses from using the same database, saying it contained too many errors.

''We have states looking at the same problem and coming up with different solutions,'' she said.


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