March 1, 2008
In the 2007 state legislative session, something truly extraordinary happened. For the first time ever, legislators in all fifty states introduced bills dealing with illegal immigration. A whopping 1,562 illegal immigration bills were submitted, up from 570 in 2006. n1 Of the bills submitted, 240 were enacted into law, up from 84 in 2006. n2 The vast majority were designed to discourage illegal immigration in one way or another.
It has been often said, but seldom demonstrated so clearly: every state is a border state now. It is undeniable that the urge to reduce illegal immigration has become a powerful force in state legislatures across the country. In the following analysis, I ask and answer two questions about this phenomenon. First, why are they doing it? Second, what legislation can states (or cities) enact in the immigration arena without being preempted by federal law?
I. FORCES PUSHING THE STATES TO ACT Without question, the single largest factor motivating state governments to enact legislation discouraging illegal immigration is the fiscal burden that it imposes upon the states. As the Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman once famously observed, “It’s just obvious … read more.
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