Nearly Half of United States Considering Arizona-Style Immigration Legislation

Twenty-two states are now in the process of drafting or seeking to pass legislation similar to Arizona’s law against illegal immigration. This is occurring despite the fact that the Obama administration has filed a lawsuit against the Arizona law and a federal judge has ruled against portions of that law – a ruling that is now being appealed.

Next month, two Rhode Island state lawmakers, a Democrat and a Republican, will travel to Arizona to speak with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, local sheriffs, and other officials about how to better craft their own bipartisan immigration bill for Rhode Island, which already has been enforcing some federal immigration laws.

Meanwhile, 11 Republican state lawmakers from Colorado traveled to Arizona this week to meet with officials there on how to craft legislation for the Mile High state.

In addition, Alabama House Republicans announced this week that they would seek to “push an illegal immigration bill similar to the recently approved Arizona law.” This law would “create a new criminal trespass statute that allows local law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants for simply setting foot in Alabama,” said Alabama’s House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard.

In Florida, proposed legislation against illegal immigration has been retooled to address some concerns raised by a federal judge who blocked the bill, though it would still allow Florida state police to enforce immigration law.

In all, there are 22 states considering copycat legislation from the Arizona law against illegal immigration, according to the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC), a group that advocates for stricter immigration enforcement.

Arizona’s law mirrors federal law. It requires local law enforcement officers during a lawful stop to determine the immigration status of an individual by asking the person to show identification that residents are already required to carry by law; and it authorizes law enforcement to securely transfer verified illegal aliens to federal custody.

The law prohibits racial profiling and gives state residents the right to sue local agencies for not complying with the state law.

In the lawsuit challenging the Arizona law, the Obama administration said the United States should not have a “patchwork” of 50 different immigration laws. In late July, U.S. District Judge Susna Bolton ruled against most of the major elements of the Arizona law, halting their implementation. That ruling is now in the appeals process.

“We do not expand on federal law,” Florida state Rep. William Snyder, sponsor of the bill in his state, told “We do not change penalties. The goal is not to create a new immigration framework at the state level.”

Snyder, the chairman of the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee, said his staff attorneys have taken the decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton into consideration in re-crafting their bill for the next state legislative session.

Snyder said the office of state Attorney General Bill McCollum has reviewed the legislation, as has committee attorneys, and they believe it will withstand a potential legal challenge from the Obama administration.

McCollum, a GOP candidate for governor, supports the legislation. However, Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-Independent candidate for U.S. Senate, opposes the proposal.

“We will continue to work with the language,” Snyder said.

In Rhode Island, a bill that was introduced late in the session last year, and thus never reached a vote, is expected to be reintroduced in the 2011 session. Its two lead co-sponsors hope to have a bipartisan bill that will withstand a legal challenge after they meet with Arizona officials.

“It exactly mirrors the Arizona law,” Rhode Island state Rep. Peter Palumbo, a Democrat, told “We will tweak the bill.”

Palumbo will be going to Arizona with Rhode Island state Rep. Joseph Trillo, a Republican.

Their legislation would essentially codify an existing executive order signed in 2008 by Gov. Donald Carcieri, a Republican, mandating immigration checks on all new state workers and ordering state police to assist federal immigration officials.

This is Carcieri’s final year in office, so Palumbo said it is important to put the force of law behind what has already been Rhode Island policy. State troopers report illegal immigrants they encounter for speeding and other offenses to the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Because of the executive order, corruption was discovered in the Department of Motor Vehicles, with drivers licenses being sold to illegal aliens, Palumbo said.

In New Jersey, state Rep. Allison Little McHose, a Republican, introduced a series of proposals that focused primarily on requiring employers to verify the legality of workers, and preventing state benefits from going to illegal aliens.

“New Jersey continues to be a sanctuary state for illegals because they know they can come to the state and receive many free benefits, like medical care,” McHose said in a statement. “The benefits may be free for those receiving them, but not the rest of the public because these costs are borne by the taxpayers.”

Other states with proposals that mirror the Arizona law are Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

“We are very pleased to announce 22 states are now following Arizona’s lead to pass versions of a law that has the support of 60 percent to 81 percent of Americans according to polls,” said ALIPAC President William Gheen in a statement. “State and federal candidates are rushing to display their support for Arizona’s law and immigration enforcement. We will not stop until all American states are protected from this invasion as mandated by the Constitution of the United States.”