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New Database Shows Immigration Bills Regulating Enforcement, Employment Have Lower Passage Rates
Press Release
Monday, October 6, 2008

New Database Shows Immigration Bills Regulating Enforcement, Employment Have Lower Passage Rates

Online, Searchable Database Collects, Classifies All Immigration Bills from 2007

Note: The database is no longer available.

WASHINGTON – State-level involvement in immigration issues has increased dramatically in recent years. But even as public attention has focused chiefly on legislation that would curtail immigrants’ rights or crack down on illegal immigration, measures that expand immigrants’ rights actually pass at a higher rate.

To organize and understand the legislation introduced by state lawmakers across the United States, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the New York University School of Law (NYU) today launched a comprehensive online searchable database of all 1,059 immigration bills introduced in 2007. In the coming months, the database will add all bills introduced since 2001 as well as this year’s legislative activity. The database, which includes a synopsis of each bill, is accompanied by the report Regulating Immigration at the State Level: Highlights from the Database of 2007 State Immigration Legislation and the Methodology.

Among the report’s findings: Just 16 percent (167) of the 1,059 bills proposed in 2007 were enacted into law, with the rest either rejected, expired or still pending.

Bills were classified by state, geographic region, subject area and bill status, allowing users to find out, for example, the status of enforcement initiatives introduced in their state, compare all bills across the United States regulating employment, or evaluate the passage rate of bills affecting housing.

Separately, under a legislative typology developed by MPI and NYU, bills were catalogued on the basis of whether they expand immigrants’ rights, contract immigrants’ rights, or regulate employment or law enforcement.

While bills designed to regulate employment or expand state and local immigration enforcement were the most popular subjects for legislation (accounting for 551 of the 1,059 bills), MPI’s analysis found that bills designed to expand immigrants’ rights had the highest enactment rate of any immigration legislation, at 19 percent. Measures contracting immigrants’ rights or relating to enforcement each had an 11 percent enactment rate, while those regulating employment had a 10 percent passage rate.

“While much public and media attention is focused on states’ efforts to increase immigration law enforcement or deter the hiring of illegal immigrants, that’s only one part of the story,’’ said Muzaffar Chishti, Director of MPI’s office at NYU Law School. “In fact, bills that aim to integrate immigrants into the broader society or protect them were more likely in 2007 to become law.”

Said Cristina Rodriguez, an MPI non-resident fellow and NYU School of Law associate law professor: “The trend is clear: At a time when Washington has been resoundingly silent on immigration policy, states have become increasingly active on the legislative front and are introducing bills that touch on everything from law enforcement to housing, health care and immigrant integration policies. This database offers an important window on the contours of the debate taking place in state legislatures across the nation.”

A search of the database, which also classifies legislation by subject area such as housing, education, health care and public benefits, shows:

  • In states with recent immigrant populations that are growing rapidly, such as South Carolina and Nevada, legislation that would contract immigrants’ rights proved the most popular in 2007.
  • In traditional immigrant-receiving states such as California, Texas and New York, measures designed to expand immigrant rights were the most popular type of legislation in 2007.
  • The top three states to propose immigration measures were Texas (104 bills), New York (98) and Tennessee (83). But the three states that saw the most immigration bills signed into law were Hawaii (15), Texas (11) and Arizona (9).

“It’s interesting that politicians in traditional immigrant-receiving states – those that account for two-thirds of the foreign-born population in the United States –  were more interested in introducing bills that dealt with immigrant integration issues than other types of measures,” said MPI Policy Analyst Laureen Laglagaron.

The 2007 report and detailed methodology can be accessed online at:https://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/2007methodology.pdf