States introduce more immigration laws, enact fewer

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2011 3:23 PM
States introduce more immigration laws, enact fewer

(Reuters) - State lawmakers this year introduced more immigration-related bills than in 2010, but enacted fewer laws in part due to vetoes by governors, a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures said on Tuesday.

The increase in bills introduced in state legislatures comes as lawmakers have continued to express frustration with the federal government's inaction on illegal immigration.

Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah in 2011 enacted far-reaching and controversial immigration laws, following the example of Arizona's watershed 2010 bill cracking down on illegal immigrants. Court challenges against all those bills are pending or in place.

Those states have required police to attempt to determine the immigration status of people they encounter in a lawful stop, the Conference said in a report.

While those bills have sparked criticism from groups that advocate for Latinos and immigrants, other states such as California have gone the other direction in 2011 by enacting bills that help illegal immigrants attend college.

In all, state lawmakers have introduced a total of 1,607 bills that were immigration-related this year, the Conference said in its report.

By comparison, about 1,400 bills were introduced in 2010 and 208 were enacted, the organization said.

In 2011, there have been 197 state laws on immigration enacted, which is the lowest figure since 2006.

The number of governors' vetoes on immigration-related bills was up this year to 15, compared to 10 in 2010, it said.

"The immigration issue is not going away," Virginia state Senator John Watkins, a Republican and co-chair of the NCSL task force on immigration and the states, said in statement.

"As long as we fail to have a federal solution, state legislatures will continue the policy debate and develop local responses, whether it's verification and authentication or combating human trafficking," he said.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will decide if key parts of Arizona's tough 2010 immigration law can proceed. The final ruling could have implications for the similar laws passed in other states.

Also on Monday a federal judge blocked part of an Alabama immigration law that would require mobile home owners to show proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency when registering the vehicles with the state.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)