State Legislatures React to New Immigration Changes


(ESPAÑOL) State legislatures across the country have enacted a wave of immigration-related measures in the seven months since President Trump took office.

“You’re seeing legislation that comes up because the feds haven’t fixed the issue, so states are trying to find ways around that,” said Mo Denis, a Democratic state senator from Nevada.

Lawmakers in 42 states and the District of Columbia passed a total of 133 new measures this year governing some part of their state’s relationship with immigrants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Immigrant Policy Project.

That’s almost twice as many measures as legislatures passed in 2016.

Thirty-six states have considered laws related to sanctuary cities, those localities that refuse to comply with federal requests that undocumented immigrants be held for deportation.

Four states — Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi and Texas — have enacted bans against sanctuary jurisdictions. The Georgia law applies only to state universities and colleges, while the Indiana, Mississippi and Texas laws prohibit cities within their borders from refusing federal detainer requests.

The number of states with such laws is likely to grow in the coming years, especially as the federal Justice Department attempts to withhold grant money from cities or counties that refuse federal detainer requests.

California legislators are considering a measure that would in effect make the entire state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrations. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” he wanted to see some changes to the measure, sponsored by state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D), before it reaches his desk.

“The states that were committed to sanctuary policies and non-cooperation in immigration enforcement kind of doubled down,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which backs strict enforcement policies. “States certainly do not have the authority to undermine federal immigration enforcement. The law says they may assist in federal immigration enforcement.”

Several states have changed the way they handle refugees being resettled within their borders. Colorado legislators added new money for a resettlement program, and South Dakota legislators repealed a state law that gave the Department of Social Services the ability to work with federal officials to resettle refugees.

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