State and local governments continue to be the staging ground for real action on immigration reform while Congress does nothing. Conservative state legislatures have enacted draconian, restrictive immigration laws (Arizona, Alabama, Utah, Georgia, and South Carolina) that, in some cases, are winding their way through the courts, while other states have moved in the direction of enacting more liberal policies toward immigrants. Most recently, the governors of Illinois and California signed into law “DREAM Act” bills that would allow undocumented immigrants to receive private funds to attend state colleges and universities. The same issue will go before the Maryland electorate as part of a referendum in November 2011. And the courts, state as well as federal, continue to enter the fray. In Texas, a district court recently barred the Texas Department of Public Safety from enforcing rules that denied driver’s licenses to immigrants living and working in Texas with valid work authorization. In Georgia, a federal district court blocked key provisions of that state’s “Show Me Your Papers” law, granting a preliminary injunction in the suit filed by a coalition of civil rights groups and individual attorneys.
In the absence of a federal approach to immigration reform and continued congressional inaction which is expected until after the next presidential election, we can expect more of the same from state and local governments as they attempt to regulate immigration and address the strain our broken immigration system causes to their communities.
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