Local Governments Continue to Deal with Immigration Issues
Wollack, Leslie, Nation's Cities Weekly
Three recent reports highlight the continuing challenges of immigration and immigrant issues for businesses and state and local governments. In the absence of federal legislation to establish a coherent national strategy on immigration, states, local governments and business continue to struggle with issues such as enforcement, providing services, and the lack of workers necessary to fill jobs in certain areas.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce brought together businesses and state officials to begin a dialogue in an environment where hundreds of different state laws and local ordinances have filled the federal leadership vacuum. Business leaders expressed concern over the economic impact of states adopting individual immigration laws.
Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue noted that undocumented immigrants can place a difficult cost burden on some border communities and states. "But we believe states and localities should resist the short-term fix of passing their own ordinances," he said.
The Chamber also released an independent report titled "Assessing the Economic Effects of State Laws Addressing the Employment of Foreign-Born Unauthorized Workers." Commissioned by the Chamber, the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Roofing Contractors Association, it looks at the demographics of five states--Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania--and the economic effects of the very different laws passed in each state. This report can be viewed at: www.stateimmigrationlaws.com.
According to the report, "States with relatively few immigrants, such as Oklahoma, act vigorously and focus on the services that unauthorized immigrants may be receiving. Other states, with very large immigrant populations, such as Illinois, are putting themselves into the middle of the fray by loosening restriction on immigrants. ... One factor that seems to be somewhat telling, at least among the five states that we examine, is that states that have experienced a recent, relatively rapid increase in the number foreign-born settling in their area have also responded forcefully.
"If this bears out across the country, it suggests that the problem may not simply be with the status of the new immigrants, but may also have something to do with the preparedness of these new gateway areas to deal constructively with greater diversity. It may not be sufficient to have new immigration laws. They may also need to be accompanied by a new community-level focus on effective integration," the report continued.
According to a new report issued by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the state legislatures continue to be a hot bed of activity for immigration-related proposals. According to NCSL, as of November 16, 2007, no fewer than 1,562 pieces of legislation related to immigrants and immigration had been introduced among the 50 state legislatures, which is three times more bills introduced than in 2006. …