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TOP 10 MIGRATION ISSUES OF 2006
Issue #8 US State and Local Governments Respond to Federal Inaction on Immigration
The Hazleton law has not been implemented due to legal challenges.
With the US Congress unable to reconcile vastly differing views of immigration legislation (see Issue #3: US Immigration Reform: Better Luck Next Year), the city of Hazleton, in eastern Pennsylvania, decided to act, passing its "Illegal Immigration Relief Act" in August. In the process, Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta became a hero to frustrated citizens nationwide, and the city took the lead in a new trend: local governments passing ordinances intended to discourage the employment and settlement of unauthorized immigrants.
These communities are struggling to cope with large
numbers of legal and unauthorized immigrants attracted by jobs and the quality
of life they offer. Approximately 50 local governments have considered Hazleton-style
laws, with about a dozen taking action.
Thus far, the Hazleton law and others like it have not been implemented due
to legal challenges. In November, a federal judge imposed a restraining order
that prevents Hazleton's immigration law from being enforced for four
months so that a lawsuit filed against the city can go to trial.
Even if such laws are eventually ruled unconstitutional, the symbolism is
proving effective: Hazleton claimed in a September press release that it had
already seen "a reverse migration of illegal immigrants and a drop in
crime and other social costs associated with the phenomenon."
At the same time, numerous state legislatures have debated measures covering
everything from the accessibility of health benefits by and driver's licenses
for unauthorized immigrants to verification requirements for employers. As
of October 31, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, 570
pieces of legislation had been introduced; 90 passed legislatures; and 84 bills
in 32 states were signed into law — more than double the number of 2005.
In the November elections, Arizonans voted overwhelmingly for four immigration-related
propositions, including Proposition 300, which bars unauthorized immigrants
from using state funds for child care and education, and Proposition 103, the
state's second attempt to make English Arizona's official language (a 1988 measure was overruled by the Arizona Supreme Court and
the US Supreme Court).
Colorado narrowly passed two referendums in November, one that denies a state
tax credit to employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers and another
that directs the attorney general to sue the federal government to demand enforcement
of immigration laws.
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