Summary of State Laws Reacting to Undocumented Immigrants

In the wake of Congress’ failed comprehensive immigration reform bill effort, states increasingly have been tackling these issues locally, resulting in a patchwork of divergent laws across the country.

These state regulations cover a variety of areas targeting both undocumented foreign nationals and the employers who hire them. The approaches vary greatly, some friendly, some hostile. Many end up as the subject of lawsuits, their legality under federal or state law being questioned.

For example, Arizona now requires all employers to use the controversial “E-Verify” system to check an employee’s legal status, while a new Illinois law prohibits employers from using “E-Verify” until the U.S. government proves it is 99 percent accurate. Both laws are under attack in court. has compiled a comprehensive summary of state laws touching on immigrants and immigration issues, including employer sanctions, access to public benefits, in-state tuition, driver’s licenses, and local law enforcement collaboration with federal immigration authorities. (A state-by-state chart is also available on the site.)

The article observes that the harshest laws are coming out of states which only recently began experiencing an influx of immigrants, whereas states that have a history of immigration are generating laws that are more accommodating.

Immigration is an area that normally falls under the responsibility of the federal government to regulate, not the states. 

For more information, see our other article providing a related round-up of state legislation relating to immigration and immigrants: Survey Shows State Legislation Relating to Immigration Skyrockets in 2007.


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