Immigration Wars: More States Looking at Arizona-Style Laws


"States are responding to their citizens, and it's resulting in unnecessary expenditure; it's resulting in some social conflict," said Texas state Rep. Aaron Pena, who represents a district that's 90 percent Hispanic. "It's very frustrating that we have to be wasting our energy on this when it's not our job."

Efforts to enact a comprehensive immigration reform package failed in the previous Congress, and with the economy and jobs at the forefront, this Congress is unlikely to take up the issue.

A Pew Research Center priorities survey in January found that dealing with illegal immigration is a middle-tier public concern. About half, 46 percent of Americans, said it was a top policy priority, placing it far behind the economy, jobs and a number of other issues.

In a joint press conference with Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, President Obama said Thursday that he remained "deeply committed to fixing our broken immigration system," and that he was "eager" to work with Republicans and Democrats "to get this reform done." But the president did not provide a timeline.

The federal government is embroiled in a bitter legal battle with the state of Arizona over its contentious law. But nonpartisan polls show that a majority of Americans support it. Roughly six in 10 Americans, or 61 percent, approve of the law, according to the latest national survey conducted by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in early February.

Of those polled, 42 percent said the priority should be to tighten border security and more strictly enforce immigration laws, but at the same time also create a way for undocumented residents to become citizens if they meet certain conditions.

While economy may be at the top of Americans' minds, that's not stopping states from moving ahead with vigorous immigration laws.

The Utah House passed a bill that would require law enforcement to detain anyone for a misdemeanor or felony if he or she cannot prove citizenship or legal status.

In Alabama, legislators are set to vote on a bill that would make undocumented residents guilty of trespassing, a crime punishable by up to a year in prison.

South Carolina is considering an Arizona-style measure that would give law enforcement the authority to check people's immigration status.

Nebraska, Kansas and North Carolina are looking into similar bills.

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