States Struggle To Cut Costs Of Immigration

Jeff Oliver, Christian Science Monitor, June 16, 2006

With no resolution of immigration-reform legislation at the federal level, states have been pressing ahead with their own measures intended to discourage illegal immigration and curtail costs of providing services to that population.

Lawmakers in Kansas, Iowa, and Arizona have voted this year to restrict certain social services to illegal immigrants, following similar action last year in Virginia. Other states have passed legislation cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants and those who sell forged documents to illegals.

In all, state legislatures have seen some 500 immigration-reform bills introduced in 2006, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

But even as lawmakers try to make it harder for illegals to live in their states, they are bumping into one roadblock after another, rendering their efforts toothless and mostly symbolic. For one, states cannot sidestep federal law by simply denying certain services, such as public education and emergency healthcare, to undocumented people. For another, the courts often ruled against their immigration-control proposals.

“Mostly, [the measures] are just unsuccessful,” says Josh Bernstein, director of federal policy at the National Immigration Law Center, an advocate for low-income immigrants. Mr. Bernstein, along with colleagues, has tracked many of the measures.

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