Immigration measures flounder from one state to the next

2011 was to be the year state legislatures around the U.S. took Arizona’s lead and cracked down on illegal immigration. It didn’t happen.

Colorado backed off early in the session, with legislators saying they didn’t want to suck the cash-strapped state into a legal quagmire. Other states with tough-talking Republican majorities backed off under pressure from business groups.

In the end, Utah came the closest to passing an Arizona-style law, but in the same breath passed a bill to create a guest worker program that would require federal approval to implement.

From today’s New York Times:

Under newly fortified Republican control, many state governments started the year pledging forceful action to crack down on illegal immigration, saying they would fill a void left by the stalemate in Washington over the issue.

Now, with some legislatures winding down their sessions, the lack of consensus that has immobilized Congress has shown up in the legislatures as well, and has slowed — but not stopped — the advance of bills to penalize illegal immigrants.

No state has passed a law that replicates the one adopted last April in Arizona, which greatly expanded the powers of police officers to question the immigration status of people they stop.

Still, immigrant advocates in many states say the debate has clearly shifted in favor of tougher enforcement. They say they have had to fight just to hold the line on immigration issues that they thought were long settled.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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