From the passage of Alabama’s draconian immigration law, to the many states and municipalities who stood up across the nation against the misleadingly named Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, 2011 was a momentous year for immigration policy. As the heated debate on immigrant rights raged throughout the country, over 1,600 immigration bills were introduced into state legislatures nationwide, most seeking to curb the rights of undocumented immigrants.
Now, in 2012, there is a similar if not more drastic forecast for immigration policy. A recent report by the Advancement Project detailed the causes of the progression against immigrant rights and the results of that trend seen in many states.
The report highlights “Arizona copycat,” laws, measures which are forthright assaults on immigrant rights. Copycats have been passed in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah.
[The laws] require immigrants to carry documentation verifying their immigration status, authorize law enforcement to inquire about immigration status during a ―lawful‖ stop, mandate employers to administer E-Verify for new workers, and permit state residents to sue state and local agencies for non-compliance of these laws.
Yet this year, “Arizona copycat” laws are not the greatest threat to immigrant rights. “Active enforcement proposals… remain a serious threat,” the report noted. “But in this presidential election year, state legislators may see passive enforcement measures through piecemeal legislation as the more politically safe option,”
These laws, passed in numerous states in 2011, restrict undocumented immigrants from their lives by shutting them off from necessary services. Passive laws often times include “identification requirements, public benefits access, and governmental agency status verification,” that ultimately prevent undocumented immigrants from accessing essential health care services and discourage them from reaching out to police to report crime or act as witnesses, thus endangering the public at large.
Much of the 2011 anti-immigrant furor has been attributed to the “state budget crises [that] fueled the blaming of low-income people of color, with the target in many states being immigrants and those perceived to be immigrants.” As deep economic losses continue to plague states and municipalities, it is likely that this will only worsen.
The upcoming presidential election will also incense more debate and fuel the passage of state anti-immigrant legislation. President Obama’s harsh immigration platform, the report states, “seems to have further emboldened states to propose their own immigration enforcement measures.” As the debate takes the election stage, Obama and his Republican counterpart will surely try to outdo each other’s anti-immigrant policies.
Despite this, there has been some progress against the onslaught of anti-immigrant legislation. Local efforts have opposed Secure Communities (S-COMM), the harmful immigration program created by Bush and then expanded by President Obama that not only endangers public safety but also serves as a pilot program intended to introduce a national biometric ID system for citizens and non-citizens alike. Additionally, the 287(g) program was recently brought to an end, and there have been successful court challenges to the “Arizona copycats.”