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Legislatures reduce immigration bills in early 2012

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Much has already been written on the wide-ranging effect of the Supreme Court's decision in the Arizona immigration case earlier this summer. While the majority opinion declared three of the law's four provisions unconstitutional and left the door open to challenges to the fourth, the pendency of the ruling may have had other consequences, including a chilling effect on the number of immigration bills drafted and passed by state legislatures in the first half of 2012.

Riding a wave of restrictive immigration laws, 30 states proposed tough legislation resembling Arizona's law during 2011. But according to data gathered by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the quantity of legislation related to immigrants and refugees dropped by 20 percent during the first six months of this year.

Some lawmakers said that they did not want to act until the Supreme Court made clear what authority states had to regulate immigration matters. So instead of tackling large-scale issues as they had done in the prior year, many state legislatures narrowed their focus in 2012, passing laws that touched on driver's licenses and identification, two issues that are of no small importance to immigrants in Maryland and around the country.

It is unknown what tack state legislatures will take now that the Supreme Court has revealed some of the contours of permissible state immigration laws. Some states may have to go back to the drawing board if they want to place restrictions on immigration. In states that passed strict regulations in 2011, legal challenges prevented them from being enforced in whole or in part.

Source: Reuters, "States passing fewer immigration laws in 2012: study," Tim Gaynor, Aug. 6, 2012.

• Immigration law remains a complex and fast-evolving subject. If you would like more information on our firm, please visit our Washington, D.C. naturalization and citizenship page.

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