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Immigration reform being taken up by states

Florida is no stranger to the national debate over undocumented aliens. Many other states are also dealing with immigration issues by passing laws and resolutions aimed at the kind of reform that is currently stalled in Congress. In 2013, 184 laws and 253 resolutions dealing with immigration-related matters were passed by state legislatures, an increase of 18 percent over 2012. The trend seemed to be away from sweeping laws to disenfranchise undocumented immigrants and toward accommodating them with practical solutions like allowing driver licenses and college tuition for these "unauthorized residents."

One example of this more tolerant attitude in several states was a new California law that would keep undocumented people arrested on minor criminal charges from being held for deportation. Advocates were calling this new approach a more decent and rational way to deal with the estimated 10 million people living here undocumented who hail from other countries.

Much of this activity was undertaken in the absence of progress in Congress, which has so far been unable to pass anything resembling comprehensive immigration reform. Perhaps unthinkable a few years ago, some states including New York were weighing the idea of allowing children of undocumented aliens to attend state colleges and universities, but were still working out tuition details. As an example of states stepping in where the federal government had been either unable or unwilling, a similar bill passed in Washington state house of representatives but came to a stop in the state senate.

Immigration law can include everything from a tourist visa to involuntary deportation. The path to legal residency and then citizenship can be arduous and complex.

Source: Non Profit Quarterly, "A Flood of State Immigration Laws in 2013", Rick Cohen, January 22, 2014

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