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Several States Push Aside Immigration Bills as Legislative Session Draws to Close

As state legislative sessions draw to a close for the year, controversial and potentially costly immigration enforcement bills have either failed to pass or are being delayed in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Michigan.
Following passage of Arizona’s immigration law (SB 1070) last summer, states across the U.S. began writing similar, ‘get tough’ enforcement legislation.  However, lessons learned from watching Arizona contend with problems (community outrage,  image and public-relations problems) and mounting costs (implementation expenses, legal battles, economic boycott) resulting from the law’s passage are making states reconsider.
Here is a brief overview of decisions in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Michigan:

  • Florida:  SB 2040 lacked sufficient support by legislators to pass in this month. The bill gave police authority to question suspected undocumented immigrants about their legal status during traffic stops. The most recent version of the bill eliminated a mandate that employers use the federal E-verify systemto check the legal status of new employees after strong opposition was expressed by business and agriculture leaders.
  • Oklahoma:  HB 1446 was shot down.  The bill made human trafficking a felony, allowed seizure of vehicles used in human trafficking, made it a crime for illegal immigrants to look for employment, and required employers to verify immigration status. The bill has been criticized because it does not target businesses that hire undocumented workers. Oklahoma’s legislative session adjourned last week.
  • Tennessee:  HB 1380 was delayed by the House Budget Committee. The bill would have allowed law enforcement officers to check a person’s legal status when stopped for a violation, when “reasonable suspicion exists that a person is in the country illegally.” The bill’s $3 million price tag and fear of developing a negative image are causes of the delay.
  • Michigan:  HB 4305 is awaiting action in the House Committee on Judiciary. Gov. Rick Snyder has been a vocal opponent of the bill, stating that Arizona-style enforcement would create a divisive atmosphere that the Michigandoes not need. The bill was introduced by Michigan State Rep. DaveAgema in February.

In addition to Arizona, states that have passed more strict immigration laws are facing (or potentially face) costly court battles. Georgia’s HB 87, which was signed into law last week, already has several national groups working on a lawsuit to challenge its constitutionality.  In Utah, just 14 hours after passing HB 497, a U.S. District Court judge blocked implementation of the law by granting a temporary restraining order.