By John Haughley
January 30, 2017
All eyes are on the Trump administration’s first big immigration move this weekend, but in the states things are heating up too.
In week one of his presidency, Donald Trump has reiterated his campaign stances on border security, with first the Wall with Mexico, and now with the executive order targeting citizens from seven countries.
But immigration was a pivotal issue not only in national and Congressional campaigns, but also in state — and even local — elections across the country. The fallout of those elections, from the White House ascendancy of immigration hardliner Donald Trump, to Republicans taking control of 33 governorships and both legislative chambers in 32 states, will likely induce a wave of immigration-related laws and regulations in 2017.
Among the immigration-related topics already surfacing are bans on sanctuary cities, so called “ant-Sharia Law” bills, crime penalty enhancements for undocumented aliens, restrictions on college financial assistance for dependents of undocumented aliens, and fees on out-of-state money transfers.
‘Sanctuary City’ bills:
Missouri became the first state to pass a law prohibiting sanctuary cities in 2008 by threatening to block state funding from cities that refused to cooperate with federal immigration officials. In 2015, North Carolina lawmakers passed HB 318, the Protect North Carolina Workers Act, which banned sanctuary policies and required state and local government agencies to use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of job applicants and contractors.
The 2015 Protect North Carolina Workers Act became the model for similar proposals in at least 18 states in 2016.
Georgia legislators approved SB 269, which requires state agencies that fund municipalities to submit an annual certificate of compliance with the prohibition on immigration sanctuary policies, and Louisiana HB 1148, which prohibits sanctuary policies, passed the House and could be approved by the Senate in 2017.
Other 2016 bills prohibiting sanctuary cities failed, (in seven states) were vetoed, (in Virginia) or remained in committee (in eight states).
Failed: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi and Washington.
Pending with possible 2017 introduction: California, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
In addition to 2016’s pending bills that could carry-over in at least eight states, more than a dozen other states are expected to consider similar legislation in 2017, including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. These bills had been pre-filed by mid-December:
– Arkansas SB 14: Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) has pre-filed 2017 legislation that would prohibit municipal sanctuary policies for immigrants and render cities ineligible for state funds if they don’t work with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials. It would bar a community from receiving funds administered by the state if the community adopts a “sanctuary” policy, or a policy of not cooperating with the federal government in enforcing immigration laws.
— Arkansas HB 1042: Rep. Brandt Smith’s (R-Jonesboro) pre-filed 2017 bill would prohibit sanctuary policies at state universities and colleges.
— Texas SB 108: Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) has pre-filed a bill to ban sanctuary city policies that discourage local law enforcement from investigating the immigration status of people who have been arrested. In addition, under SB 108, if an immigrant is convicted of committing a crime and is in the country illegally, the sentence would get bumped up to the next highest level of punishment.
Crime Penalty Enhancements:
Although crime penalty enhancements for people convicted of crimes and determined to be in the country illegally are included as components of broader immigration-related bills, including many of the sanctuary city bans, several states are expected to pass specific legislation imposing enhanced penalties for aliens who meet specified criteria.
— Florida SB 120: Sen. Travis Hutson’s ((R-Palm Coast) pre-filed a 2017 bill that would require specified offenses be reclassified if committed by illegal aliens to the next higher degree. Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) has pre-filed a 2017 companion bill in the House, HB 83.
— Texas SB 108: Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) has pre-filed a bill that would require any undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony receive enhanced punishment. Under this bill, those who commit a first-degree felony would face life in prison.
Out-Of-State Money Transfers:
Oklahoma passed a one percent fee on out-of-state money transfers in 2009 that the Associated Press reports generated about $12 million for the state during the 2015 fiscal year. This so-called “immigrant fee” could be replicated elsewhere in 2017.
— Georgia HB 12: Rep. Jeff Jones’ (R-Brunswick) pre-filed bill — which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has described as Georgia’s “first piece of Trump-era legislation” — would impose a fee of two percent on personal wire transfers of money out of the state. The fee would be recoverable as an income tax credit or refund, meaning it would effectively only be paid by those who don’t file an income tax return, such as undocumented aliens and drug dealers.
According to the Center for Immigration studies, imposing this fee could generate as much as $100 million a year, which it says will induce other states to “undoubtedly take note” and spur a raft of similar legislation in 2017 and beyond.
Restrictions of financial assistance for college and other public programs:
Five states — California, New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas and Washington — offer state financial assistance to undocumented aliens. In 2014, Tennessee and Florida extended in-state tuition to U.S. citizen students who are dependents of unauthorized immigrants. Utah is among several states that allow public universities to use private sources to private financial aid to undocumented immigrant students.
Six states — Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and South Carolina — ban in-state tuition to be extended to unauthorized immigrant students. Missouri became the last to do so in 2015, also banning scholarships be extended to students who cannot adequately document their immigration status.
— Florida SB 82: Pre-filed 2017 bill co-sponsored by Sens. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) and Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) would delete a requirement that a state university, Florida College System institution, career center operated by a school district, or charter technical career center waive out-of-state fees for undocumented students.
— Arkansas HB 1042: Rep. Brandt Smith’s (R-Jonesboro) sanctuary campus ban would also prohibit offering financial assistance to undocumented students.
In mid-November, Georgia Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) pre-filed HB 3, an amendment to the state’s anti-mask law which prohibits individuals from covering their faces in public, a not-so-subtle attempt to outlaw Muslim women from wearing hijabs, niqabs, or burqas in public. Spencer withdrew the bill by mid-December.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com