Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

States Think Smaller, Slower On Immigration

by Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer

The year’s legislative sessions are far from over, and immigration remains a hotly debated issue in numerous states where lawmakers are still meeting, including Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, Rhode Island and South Carolina. But even in those states, far-reaching proposals — from barring undocumented students from attending public universities in Missouri to mandatory identification cards for all Alabama workers — have run into trouble.

The cautious approach is a marked change from the last three years, when states competed to pass the strictest anti-illegal immigration law in the country. Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Oklahoma all approved groundbreaking measures that cracked down on the problem. Last year, 46 states enacted 194 new immigration-related laws — triple the number from the previous year, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The issue had also been a hot topic on the campaign trail for states that had elections in 2007. It played an especially prominent role in elections in Mississippi and Virginia.

But now business groups, which are mounting strong opposition to many of the measures, say they’re better organized to fight proposals that threaten to shut down companies that hire illegal immigrants, as laws passed last year in Arizona and Oklahoma do.

State budget woes and pocketbook issues are also overshadowing concerns about immigration. For example, Kentucky state Rep. Kathy Stein (D) cited the potential cost to state and local governments of an immigration crackdown as one of the reasons that she, as the head of the judiciary committee, killed a bill there that included a wide range of measures to combat illegal immigration.

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