September 22nd, 2011
How 1,600 Bills Forced Latinos To Care About Immigration

There’s been a subliminal debate – if such a thing can exist – concerning Latinos and immigration that’s been going on since since California had it’s proposition 187 conniption. The fit grew worse recently when Arizona threw it’s SB1070 tantrum. It has to do with the importance of the immigration issue within the Latino coomunity.

For many, many years immigration was listed fifth, maybe even sixth in importance among Latinos; education, security, jobs, and health being among the top concerns. But the more the anti-immigrant crowd banged their drums, the more Latinos took notice and the more they took notice the higher the immigration issue crept in the ranking.

So now immigration is a top concern. And now political hacks interpret that to mean the Latinos are a one-issue voting block. But then there’s this, reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL):

In the first half of 2011, state legislators introduced 1,592 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The number of bill introductions is an increase of 16 percent compared to the first half of 2010, when 46 states considered 1,374 bills and resolutions pertaining to immigrants.

You see, it’s not that Latinos are one-issue community, it’s that there’s a growing immigration obsession in some political quarters. 1,592 bills worth of obsession.

Most of these bills follow the pattern set by Arizona’s SB1070 – the law that was struck down in part by a federal court and has never really seen the light of day. The funny thing is that of all of those state level immigration bills, only a handful were enacted: 162 to be exact, and another 95 resolutions approved. This isn’t really a winning formula. Not, at least, if what you’re trying to accomplish is turn a bill into a law.  But if the goal is to raise an issue for no better reason than to make a point and turn it into a political wedge, then the 1,592 bills have been a success.

I fully expect the avalanche of anti-immigrant, state level bills to continue. And it won’t stop until the matter is decided once and for all in the Supreme Court.  The central question is whether states have jurisdiction over immigration, which the justice department maintains is a federal concern. It goes directly to the subject of state ‘s rights and the idea of one nation, unified under a set of federal laws.

I’m hoping this gets resolved sooner than later. Because when it does the state level shenanigans will end, once and for all, and Latinos can go back to concerning themselves with education and jobs and health.

The truth is that Latinos didn’t pick this fight – it was brought. But Latinos aren’t going to back away from it. So here we are, with an issue forced on us to the point that it’s become a main concern; politicians putting the issue at the top of their Latino talking points as if it’s all they need to do to score points. And meanwhile Latino families are still trying to find jobs, educate their children, stay healthy and be safe.

If you’re interested in a breakdown of the state level immigration bill tally, the NCSL has a pretty nifty one:

[Photo by bshafer]

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