Other States Following Arizona’s Lead on Illegal Immigration Law

By Chad Burchard | December 27, 2010

Despite a federal judge’s ruling last July blocking key portions of S.B. 1070—Arizona’s much maligned anti-illegal immigration law—many other states appear likely to adopt similar legislation this year.

Shortly before the 2010 midterm elections, the group Immigration Works USA, which supports legalizing illegal aliens, issued a report identifying some 25 states that might follow in Arizona’s footsteps.  While it is unlikely that all of these states will pass an Arizona-style law in the coming year, there is widespread agreement that at least a few of them will.

In Georgia, such a proposal is almost certain to become law.  The state has a history of tackling the immigration issue.  In 2006, it passed the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, which made it harder for illegal aliens to receive public benefits or work in the state. Back in September, the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the State House appointed a 14-member committee on immigration. It is currently considering a variety of restrictionist measures.  The incoming Republican governor, Nathan Deal, has long taken a tough stance on illegal immigration and made it a key issue during his campaign.  He vowed repeatedly to sign an Arizona-style law if elected.

Mississippi also seems likely to pass an Arizona-style law in 2011.  Several Republican state senators have already told the press that they are working on drafting legislation in the mold of S.B. 1070, and State Senator Joey Fillingane, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has already held hearings on immigration. The current governor, Haley Barbour, has pledged to sign an Arizona-style law.  Although he will be term-limited out of office this year, the main contenders for the GOP nomination for governor have also promised to sign such a law.

Like Georgia, Mississippi has already taken steps in this direction.  In 2009, it passed a law mandating E-Verify for all employers.  Administered by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, E-Verify is described as: “an Internet-based system that allows an employer, using information reported on an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to determine the eligibility of that employee to work in the United States.”  [See Homeland Security web site].

In Oklahoma, State Rep. Randy Terrill appears determined to fulfill his promise to the press, made shortly after S.B. 1070 was signed into law, to propose an “Arizona-plus” law.  In part because of Terrill’s efforts, Oklahoma, like Georgia and Mississippi, already has some tough immigration enforcement laws on the books.  In 2007, the state passed laws making it a felony to knowingly transport, shelter, or hire an illegal alien.

South Carolina is also moving in the same direction.  The state passed measures similar to Oklahoma’s in 2008, and state law makers introduced an Arizona-style immigration bill less than a week after S.B. 1070 was signed.  While the state legislature adjourned before passing the measure, everyone expects it to be introduced again in 2011.  Nikki Haley, the newly elected Republican and Tea Party backed governor, made opposition to illegal immigration a major part of her campaign and promised to sign an Arizona-style law.

Thus, at least four states seem very likely to follow Arizona’s lead in 2011 on immigration.  Indeed, the Immigration Works USA report places Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Carolina on a so-called “danger list.”  However, as the report acknowledges, there are rumblings in many other states as well.

In Pennsylvania, polls taken shortly after the Arizona law was signed showed that nearly 60% of the state supported the measure.  Pennsylvania, after all, is home to the town of Hazelton, which made headlines a few years ago when it approved an ordinance which, among other things, barred landlords from renting to illegal aliens.  While Pennsylvania might not end up adopting a law based on Arizona’s, there is good reason to believe that it will move towards requiring more employers to use E-Verify.

Nebraska State Senator Charlie Janssen has promised to introduce a bill modeled on the Arizona law early in 2011.  Janssen represents Fremont, a town which earlier this year passed an ordinance similar to Hazelton’s.  Nebraska’s Republican governor, Dave Heineman, has gone on record saying that he would sign an Arizona-style law.

In Tennessee, popular support for an Arizona-style bill is also very strong.  Republican State Senator Bill Ketron has vowed to introduce such a bill, and if it passes, the new Republican governor, Bill Haslam, is likely to sign it.

Kentucky Republicans have already filed a bill that goes even farther than the Arizona law.  Like S.B. 1070, the Kentucky measure, Senate Bill 6, authorizes police to inquire about immigration status and bans “sanctuary” cities, but it also outlaws illegal aliens’ presence in the state as “trespassing” and makes it a crime to aid an illegal alien in entering or residing in the state.

Newly elected Florida Republican governor Rick Scott has already made headlines by signing an executive order mandating that state agencies and contractors use E-Verify.  He made his support for S.B. 1070 while on the campaign trail and has said that he would sign such a law.

In Texas, State Rep. Debbie Riddle (a long-time advocate for more state involvement in immigration enforcement) filed an Arizona-style bill almost as soon as the period for filing bills for the 2011 legislative session began in November.  Although Texas Gov. Rick Perry initially said that an Arizona-style law would “not be the right direction” for his state, he has nevertheless defended Arizona’s right to take such an approach and Texas was one of nine states to join an amicus brief filed in support of S.B. 1070.

Regardless of how many states pass their own versions of S.B. 1070, Arizona is not likely to be alone in its fight for much longer.