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Report: Immigration Legislation on the Decline in 2012

Judging the output of newly-introduced bills and resolutions from state lawmakers in the first three months of this year, 2012 is on track to be less focused on immigration issues than 2011, according to a new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In the first quarter of this year, 865 bills and resolutions related somehow to immigration or refugees were introduced in 45 states and the District of Columbia, the report found. That is a 44 percent drop from the first three months of 2011, when NCSL says that more than 1,500 such bills were introduced. A handful of legislatures aren't currently in session, which could explain, in part, the decrease.

The greatest number of bills so far this year focus on law enforcement, followed closely by those related to employment and public benefits. Nine states have immigration "omnibus" legislation pending—measures that would enact a sweeping array of changes related to immigration law enforcement, employment verification, and verification of lawful status to receive public benefits.

Twenty-five states are debating education-related measures, many of them focused on residency requirements for in-state tuition or state financial aid for higher education. Several of them seek to require data collection, reporting, or cost-estimates for students here unlawfully who are attending public schools. That same type of provision was part of Alabama's enacted H.B. 56—considered to be the nation's toughest immigration law—and was put on hold by a federal court. It's also the kind of requirement that the U.S. Department of Justice does not view favorably, as we've seen in Alabama.

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