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Editorial: States Making Illegal Immigrants Unwelcome

March 19, 2012
Plain English Version

The Arizona state capitol building.

In 2010 Arizona became the first state to pass anti-immigrant laws. Local police were required to check the immigration status of people stopped for minor infractions, such as an illegal turn. It became illegal for undocumented people to look for work or be hired for work.

Since then, thirty-one states have enacted legislation that affects migrants who do not have proper papers. Five states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah – have passed laws much like Arizona’s.

Federal courts have blocked the implementation of many aspects of the laws in different states. Employers and residents have complained about costs and the difficulties of the new laws. Even so, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia are considering similar laws.

Hundreds of local governments have passed laws and ordinances on immigration. These include requiring employers to certify workers’ legal status, mandating English as an official language, and forbidding day laborers to seek work in public.

Some places are more welcoming. New York City and Cook County, Ill. passed laws limiting the role of local police in immigration arrests.

The federal government has expanded border security in the past few years. More illegal immigrants are being deported than ever before. Fewer immigrants are trying to make it into the United States without papers.

The Supreme Court is taking up the Arizona immigration law (S.B. 1070) next month It will address the question of whether state and local immigration crackdowns are legal.  A decision is expected this summer. The court could help stop a dangerous trend in lawmaking.

Adapted from an editorial in The New York Times


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