Immigration Debate: Number of City, State Bills Relating to Immigration Increase

Arizona's immigration law has garnered the most controversy and national attention, but across the country, cities and states are considering laws that are fueling the fire in the contentious debate over immigration.

From the Midwest to the East Coast, some cities and states are taking the unusual step of implementing laws and regulations that cross into the traditional jurisdiction of the federal government.

In the first quarter of 2010 alone, state legislators in 45 states introduced 1,180 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees, up from the first quarter of 2009, when 25 states passed 35 laws and adopted 40 resolutions, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislators.

As of March 31, the NCSL estimated that 34 state legislatures had passed 71 laws and adopted 87 resolutions, and 37 bills were pending signatures on governors' desks.

Critics question the constitutionality of these laws, but supporters across the board say they are designed to curb what they see as a growing problem surrounding illegal immigration.

Here is a look at some of the states and cities that have adopted or are debating controversial immigration laws:

Fremont: Illegal Immigrants Taking Away Local Jobs?

The small Midwest town of Fremont, Nebraska, boasts a relatively small population of 25,000 people, and an unemployment rate that's far below the national average. Yet, the city overwhelmingly voted to pass an ordinance that would bar landlords and employers from renting to and hiring illegal immigrants.

Renters would have to apply for a license that entails a background police check. Any renters that don't have legal resident documents would be turned over to federal authorities. The ordinance also requires employers to check the legal status of their employees through the e-Verify database.

The law will likely be tangled in legal limbo for months, in what the city expects will cost residents upward of $3 million.

On July 20, both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund filed lawsuits to stop enforcement of the law.

Both lawsuits charged that the law is unconstitutional and encroaches on the federal government's authority to enforce immigration law. The groups also said the ordinance, if implemented, will have a discriminatory effect on those who look or sound foreign.

"This law encourages discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear to be foreign born, including U.S. citizens," Amy Miller, legal director of ACLU Nebraska, said in a statement.

Last week, the City Council unanimously voted to delay implementation of the ordinance until the lawsuits are resolved.

Supporters of the ordinance blame illegal immigrants for taking away jobs and burdening taxpayers. Fremont's meat-packing industry employs a large number of Hispanics and foreign-born workers, but most of those plants are located outside the purview of the city, and employers say they already check the status of their workers.

Hispanics comprise a small minority of Fremont's population, only about 8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2006-2008 data. The Hispanic population has nearly doubled since 2000, while the city's white population has declined slightly.

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