Law & Courts

2011: Banner Year for Immigration Legislation in Alabama; Other States

By Lesli A. Maxwell — December 13, 2011 1 min read
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On the day after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, a new report reveals that the amount of state-level legislating around immigrant issues in 2011 has risen from the previous year.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, in an immigration policy report, found that state lawmakers introduced 1,607 bills and resolutions related to immigrants and refugees in all 50 states and Puerto Rico as of Dec. 7 of this year. That’s a considerable uptick from 2010, when roughly 1,400 bills and resolutions surfaced in 46 statehouses, according to NCSL.

Notably, though, fewer pieces of immigration-related legislation were actually enacted in 2011 than in 2010.

Alabama’s law, of course, is the biggie of 2011 and pieces of it remain in enormous flux, including the section of the statute that requires public schools to collect immigration data on students. In fact, earlier this month, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange recommended that provision be repealed, especially in light of the legal challenge mounted against it by the U.S. Department of Justice and dozens of other plaintiffs. The Justice Department has moved aggressively against that provision in other ways as well, demanding data from school district superintendents in order to judge how much the law has had a chilling effect on children participating in public schooling.

Besides Alabama, four other states—Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah—adopted sweeping statutes similar to the Arizona law now under review by the Supreme Court. Those four laws are also under legal challenge by the Justice Department.

Not all legislation introduced in 2011 was viewed as anti-immigrant. Both Connecticut and Maryland passed laws making unauthorized immigrants eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. In California, where the decade-old in-state tuition eligibility law was turned down for review earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, undocumented immigrants are also eligible for financial aid under a new law.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.