A Closer Look at States Passing Their Own Immigration Enforcement Laws

A Closer Look at States Passing Their Own Immigration Enforcement Laws

Faced with growing frustration over the management of immigration laws and enforcement at the federal level, individual states have begun a very controversial process of passing their own immigration laws at the state level.   Immigration has always been considered an issue to solely be addressed at the federal level, but this rash of newly enacted state laws has brought this discussion to the political arena across the United States.  In this article, we will take a closer look at the states that have already passed their own immigration laws.

Arizona is the first to act with SB 1070

It’s no secret that Arizona, with its border to Mexico, has a vested interest in the status of immigration laws and enforcement.  Arizona also faces a well documented problem of illegal immigrants living in the state, with estimates of as many as 500,000 currently residing there (a 10 fold increase since 1990).  As such, it should be no surprise that Arizona was the first state to pass its own immigration law.  The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Arizona SB 1070) was passed into law in Arizona in 2010 and signed by the governor. By most accounts, the act was the strictest and broadest anti-immigration measure passed in America in recent history.

The Arizona immigration enforcement law has several key provisions:

  • It makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying documentation established legal residency
  • It requires that state law enforcement officers attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status during a lawful stop, detention, or arrest when there is reason to believe that the individual is an illegal alien
  • It establishes greater restrictions on those transporting, sheltering, or hiring illegal aliens
  • It bars state or local officials from restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws

While the law had support in Arizona and throughout the United States, critics contend that the law encourages and permits racial profiling.  Legal challenges, including one by the United States Department of Justice followed based.

Alabama follows suit

Alabama passed its version of the Arizona law in 2011.  Some of the features of the Alabama law that are similar to Arizona include the provisions regarding business licensing and E-verify, which both were upheld in Arizona.

While a Federal judge has refused to block some provisions of the Alabama law, representatives of family and children’s advocacy groups claim the law is an attack on immigrant children and families.  Just this past week (October 7, 2011) the Obama Administration has officially asked an appeals court to halt the Alabama immigration law, saying it could have dire diplomatic consequences abroad, as it invites discrimination and forces illegal immigrants into neighboring states.

Georgia & South Carolina come next

Georgia and South Carolina have also passed their own immigration laws in 2011.  However, a Federal judge has already stepped in with the Georgia controversy to block some key provisions of the law. However, most of the law has still gone into effect, pending further legal challenges.

More Changes to Come

There is no doubt that, given this trend, more lawsuits and legal battles are soon to come regarding the issue of states passing immigration enforcement laws.  Some immigration experts believe that these local, state laws actually exacerbate immigration enforcement problems by confusing the legal issues surrounding undocumented aliens within one state.  On the other hand, state officials claim they have no choice but pass their own laws as a result of the Federal government’s failure to address the country’s growing immigration controversies.

For more information about immigration laws as they are enforced in Maryland, contact The Law Firm of Annapolis. We provide immigration law services in the Annapolis & Baltimore, Maryland area, including E-verify compliance and concerns