State Immigration Laws Down in 2014; Nothing on E-Verify, NCSL Report Says

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By Laura D. Francis

Jan. 7 — After a spike in 2013, state legislatures enacted a total of only 288 immigration laws and resolutions in 2014, 13 percent of which focused on employment, according to a report released Jan. 7 by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Notably, however, there were no state laws or resolutions in 2014 pertaining to the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system. Nor did any state enact omnibus immigration legislation, according to “Report on 2014 State Immigration Laws.”

In 2013, only Georgia passed an omnibus law; by contrast, in 2011, 30 states considered more than 50 bills and ultimately passed five, and in 2012, five states considered omnibus bills but didn't pass any.

States passed a total of 437 immigration laws and resolutions in 2013.

The report attributed the 2014 drop in part to some states not being in legislative session last year, including Texas, which enacted 101 laws and resolutions in 2013. Legislatures of Montana, Nevada and North Dakota also didn't meet in 2014, and Maine, North Carolina and Vermont didn't enact any immigration legislation during the year.

“State legislators have long been active in finding local solutions to immigration challenges, but this issue ultimately requires reform at the federal level,” Virginia Sen. John Watkins (R), co-chair of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States, said in a statement.

“We look forward for the opportunity to share our ideas and expertise, and to work with the new Congress and the administration to make our economy stronger and our communities safer,” he said.

States Enacted 22 Employment Laws

While budget and appropriations laws made up the largest percentage of all state immigration laws in 2014—22 percent—employment-related laws made up 13 percent, an increase from 11 percent in 2013, the report said.

According to the report, 14 states—Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington—enacted 22 employment-related immigration laws last year.

The laws include California's A.B. 2751, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees by using their immigration status. California also enacted S.B. 477, which prohibits foreign labor contractors from charging recruitment fees, requires contractors to disclose employment conditions to workers, requires labor contractors to register with the California Labor Commissioner and prohibits employers from using unregistered contractors.

The report also said Massachusetts enacted H.B. 4377, which establishes a three-year pilot program to offer individuals on temporary visas the opportunity to pursue practical training in entrepreneurship.

The program offers part-time employment following a period of study for a masters or doctorate degree in the sciences, technological fields, engineering, mathematics, accounting, finance, economics, business or business administration in order to obtain practical experience in the field of study. Participating employers must apply for an H-1B highly skilled guestworker visa.

The report added that Rhode Island's S.B. 3125 creates a task force to look at evaluating and certifying foreign-trained professionals.

And Utah's S.B. 203 pushes back until 2017 a statewide guestworker program and resident immigrant pilot program in order to gain approval for the programs from the federal government.

Professional Licenses

Although the report didn't categorize them as employment measures, it did mention 2014 laws related to professional licenses and immigration status.

For example, California's S.B. 1159 prohibits the Department of Consumer Affairs from denying professional licensure to an applicant based on citizenship or immigration status, and allows licensing bodies in the state to accept either an applicant's individual tax identification number or a Social Security number.

Florida's H.B. 755 allows the state's supreme court to admit undocumented immigrants to the state bar if they have received federal employment authorization and a Social Security number and otherwise meet the requirements for admission.

The law responds to a Florida Supreme Court decision that undocumented law school graduate Jose Godinez-Samperio couldn't be granted a law license because the state hadn't passed a law excusing itself from the federal prohibition on professional licenses for undocumented immigrants under 8 U.S.C. § 1621 (In re Fla. Bd. of Bar Exam'rs, 134 So. 3d 432, 2014 BL 61485 (Fla. 2014)).

Arizona also enacted H.B. 2639, which classifies, as a class 3 aggravated identity theft felony, knowingly accepting the identity of another person and using it to verify work eligibility, the report said.

However, a federal judge in Arizona Jan. 5 issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law that H.B. 2639 amended, finding it was preempted by federal immigration law (Puente Ariz. v. Arpaio (D. Ariz. Jan. 5, 2015)).

Text of the NCSL report is available at