US state legislature passed fewer immigration laws this year

A new study has found that US state legislatures passed fewer immigration laws this year; lawmakers' priorities focused on balancing budgets. In addition US courts debated how much authority state police have to enforce immigration laws compared to federal authorities. This has delayed some proposed immigration related legislation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures study found that 41 states passed 114 bills and adopted 92 resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees in the first six months of this year, this was a decline of 20 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

"Legislators found that state budget gaps and redistricting maps took priority, consuming much of the legislative schedule," according to a report by the group's Immigration Policy Project. "Perhaps more significant, state lawmakers cited pending litigation on states' authority to enforce immigration laws as further reason to postpone action."

Despite immigration receiving less attention in the US state legislature, there have been several notable immigration bills creating controversy in the past two years. For instance, Arizona passed a law two years ago designed to drive illegal immigrants out of the border state, however parts of the law were later blocked by a federal judge. Additionally, last year, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah also attempted to crack down on illegal immigration, but the laws were either partially or entirely blocked by the courts.

Law enforcement and identification/driver's licenses for illegal immigrants remained the leading issues addressed by state legislatures, comprising 18 percent and 11 percent respectively, of all enacted laws on immigration. Proposed laws included deciding to allow or not allow illegal immigrants to apply for a US driver's license and reviewing requirements for immigrants to receive licenses.

However, states continued to approve bills that fund naturalization and migrant and refugee programs. Laws related to those programs made up about one-quarter of the laws passed in the first half of 2012, according to the study.

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