Progressive States Network - Anti-Immigrant Movement Falters At State Level

Counter to expectations, new report shows integrative policies in statehouses across country are more dominant than punitive policies

Despite a mainstream media narrative trumpeting 2008 as the year of anti-immigrant legislation, a report released today by the Progressive States Network reveals that most anti-immigrant legislation never passed, while positive policies working to integrate new immigrants into our communities have actually fared far better in states around the country.

In a comprehensive study of immigration policy in all 50 states, the PSN report found that only 11% of the country's undocumented immigrants live in states with "punitive" policies and another 10% live in states with "somewhat punitive" or with "mixed" integrative and punitive policies. Another 19% live in states that have been "inactive" on immigration policies. But an overwhelming 60% of undocumented immigrants live in states with positive "integrative" or "somewhat integrative" policies. (See Chart below from the report)

According to PSN's Policy Director Nathan Newman, who authored the report, "We found what you would actually expect to find: most sensible legislators are abandoning the rhetoric of scapegoating and moving toward policies that help integrate our communities and help to better the lives of all working families, native and immigrant alike."

This report's focus on actual implementation of policies contrasts with a recent report by the National Council of State Legislators, which fed hype about a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment by citing the fact that 1,562 immigration bills had been introduced in 2007 and 1,267 introduced in 2008. "Everyone jumped at the number of bills that got introduced, but few in the media took the time to analyze what kinds of bills overall have been implemented in recent years," said Newman. "When you look at those results, it's clear that the states where most undocumented immigrants actually live are promoting sensible, integrative policies."

The PSN report documents this assertion by highlighting the fact that many states now provide in-state tuition for immigrant children going to public universities. Other states are promoting policies to integrate immigrants through English language instruction and assistance in navigating the citizenship process. A number of states are providing health insurance to undocumented children. Instead of trying to punish immigrant workers, states are increasingly working with native and immigrant workers to crack down on bad employers who are violating minimum wage, safety and workers compensation laws.

All of these examples bolster the report's core claim that the media and many politicians have been paying too much attention to a few states enacting punitive policies, since they are the aberration, not the norm of policy dealing with new immigrants.

According to PSN Co-Chair Garnet Coleman, a state representative from Texas who helped found the PSN-sponsored State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy network, "This is the new breed of immigration legislation. In states like mine, where we have been living in integrated immigrant communities for a long time, we understand that you can't simply blame a segment of the working population for problems that they didn't create. You've got to help everyone move forward together. And states across the country are starting to get that, too."

Full copies of the report in both HTML and PDF format are available at:

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