State legislatures looked at fewer immigration bills in 2012

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The number of immigration bills in state legislatures last year is down, but still remains at an historical high according to a new report from the National Conference on State Legislatures. There are several explanations for the dip, including the May 2012 Supreme Court Arizona v. United States ruling in which only the lawful stop provision was upheld, and the fact that four state legislatures did not meet in 2012, including Montana, North Dakota, Nevada and Texas.

In 2012, state legislators in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico introduced 983 bills and resolutions related to immigration. This marks a decline of 39 percent compared with 2011, during which 1,606 bills were introduced. The decrease in the number of enacted bills and resolutions was less pronounced: 267 in 2012 compared with 306 in 2011, a decline of just 13 percent.

Of the bills and resolutions enacted, nearly a quarter were budget related, appropriating funds for federal programs such as English language acquisition, naturalization and refugee resettlement. The remainder focused on clearing up small issues around permissible paperwork, law enforcement procedures, and education and health care rules for immigrants.

State lawmakers pointed to other issues pushing immigration to the back burner, notably budget deficits, redistricting and pending litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court on Arizona’s immigration enforcement law. According to data in the report, only two states – Maryland and Montana offered voters a chance to decide new laws through a ballot measure. In Maryland the state successfully enacted in-state tuition rates for some immigrant children. While in Montana a ballot measure that requires proof of citizenship to use certain state services passed, it is now being challenged in court.

The full report offers a detailed breakdown of all the laws enacted and their focus across the 50 states and is available here.