DALLAS Immigration issues are seen making a big political splash in 2011 as several U.S. states consider measures aimed at illegal migrants and workers.
A resurgent Republican Party, which won sweeping victories in the 2010 mid-term elections, is seen as the driving force behind many of the measures, as a tough line on immigration appeals to much of the party's conservative base.
Arizona last year enacted a law that required police to determine the immigration status of any person they suspect of being in the country illegally.
Key components of the state law, known as SB 1070, were put on hold by a federal district judge before they came into effect in July. The judge argued that immigration matters are the federal government's responsibility. Arizona appealed the decision before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco
Following are some of the Arizona-style measures that could be brought forward in 2011.
- Georgia: The state's assembly has created a special joint House and Senate committee, composed entirely of Republicans, to consider immigration policy. It is weighing whether or not to bring in an Arizona-style measure.
- Mississippi: Members in both chambers of the Mississippi legislature have signaled they plan to introduce an immigration bill modeled on Arizona's. In the state senate, such a bill would allow for immigration checks if a person is stopped by law enforcement for another reason.
- Nebraska: The state has a unicameral, nonpartisan legislature that would only need 24 votes to pass a strict immigration measure. The state's Republican governor Dave Heineman has long been a staunch opponent of illegal immigration and has said he will work with the state attorney general to emulate Arizona's approach.
- Oklahoma: New Oklahoma Governor elect Mary Fallin, a Republican, has signaled she favors Arizona's approach and an even tougher measure may be introduced in the coming legislative session.
- None of the other states that share borders with Mexico -- California, New Mexico and Texas -- are seen copying the Arizona law.
- A measure similar to Arizona's may come up in the Texas legislature this year. But Governor Rick Perry, a conservative Republican, says in his just published book "Fed Up!" that while he supports Arizona's right to introduce such a law, he does not think it is "the right approach for Texas." Analysts have also said that Perry is mindful of the growing Hispanic vote in Texas and does not want to alienate it.
- At least 14 states are working together to develop a shared legislative framework to challenge automatic U.S. citizenship for children born to illegal immigrant parents, which is grounded in the 14th amendment to the Constitution. Lawmakers plan to unveil the measure in Washington on January 5.
- Arizona's law got all of the attention last year -- because it was viewed as being so tough -- but it was hardly alone in seeking to address immigration issues.
In 2010, according to the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures, the states enacted a record number of laws and resolutions addressing immigration issues. As of November 22, 46 state legislatures and the District of Columbia enacted 208 laws and adopted 138 resolutions, for a total of 346.
(Sources: Reuters, National Immigration Forum, National Conference of State Legislatures, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," by Rick Perry)
(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor, editing by Greg McCune)