• Featured Legislator

      Senator JoyceElliott
      Senator Joyce Elliott (D)
      Chair, Joint Budget Committee- Peer Review
      Vice Chair, Education Committee
      Chair, Arkansas Legislative Council-Higher Education Subcommittee
      Chair, Whole Child – Whole Community Program
      NBCSL Vice Chair, Education Policy Committee

      “Recognizing the connection between immigration status and human trafficking, I successfully passed my first bill on human trafficking in 2005, just barely, for this was not a topic of interest for most people.  Eight years later, other legislators, churches, nonprofits and activists became informed and involved.  There is no higher calling for an elected official than to protect vulnerable populations in the shadows of life.  The road I have trod as an African American, Southern woman compels me to honor the blood-soaked immigration legacy of my ancestors to do my part to make sure we have fair, humane immigration policies in our country.” 
       
      Contact Information
      P. O. Box 4248, Little Rock, 72214
      District 31
      Phone (501) 603-9546

States Marshal Change on Immigration Reform

Committees of Jurisdiction: Education; Health and Human Services; International Affairs; Law, Justice, and Ethics; Emergency Preparedness/Homeland Security; Youth
Related Resolutions: LJE-07-10; LMV-04-13; LJE-11-25; IA-04-30; LJE-06-89


Introduction

Courtesy of The Columbus DispatchPhoto Credit: The Columbus DispatchAmerica is considered a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, created by immigration policies that have enabled many to call the U.S. home. These policies are also a matter of contention, especially within the halls of federal and state governments. Issues such as border security, access to foreign workers, and creating a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants across the country remain a concern. With the lack of a comprehensive way to address the aforementioned, states have both looked to the federal government for guidance and pursued ways to alleviate issues on their own.



Federal Action

Immigration and immigration reform, once burning hot issues in Congress, have since lost political sizzle.   After failed attempts by both chambers, including the Senate’s comprehensive approach, Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744), the House’s multiple immigration bills, H.R. 1417; H.R. 2131; and H.R. 2278; and H.R. 15, a bill introduced by House Democrats in late 2013 that incorporates more Republican provisions, the future of immigration reform remains uncertain. In the midst of congressional inaction, several pro-immigration advocates are putting pressure on the House to move.



NBCSL Action

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) has passed numerous resolutions on immigration insisting on laws rooted in human decency and parity between immigrant groups in how they are treated:

  • LJE-07-10; Immigration Reform
  • LMV-04-13; Calling for Immigration Reform
  • LJE-11-25; Opposition to Arizona Immigrations Laws
  • IA-04-30; Support for Liberian Refugees Immigration Fairness Act
  • LJE-06-89 Non-Citizen Immigrants Afforded Due Process of Law
More specifically, LJE-07-10 recognizes the need for comprehensive immigration reform that best reflects American values by keeping families together, providing an earned path to citizenship for current and future immigrants, protecting workers, strengthening national security, and creating better ways to integrate immigrants into American life.  



State Action

States have as approached immigration from a variety of standpoints: human trafficking, legal rights, adequate health care, and education. While these social problems may pose a challenge for everyone, they tend to have a disproportionate effect on immigrants and their families. States are therefore leading the charge, improving the overall quality of life for each and every immigrant in the United States.    


Arkansas

ArkansassHuman Trafficking Act of 2013 (SB 242)

NBCSL Sponsor: Senator Joyce Elliot

Summary: The Arkansas Human Trafficking Act establishes a task force which will create a state plan for preventing human trafficking, forced labor, and commercial sex exploitation.  It also increases public awareness, provides training to law enforcement, creates criminal penalties for those found guilty of trafficking and sex exploitation, and provides victims with civil remedies.

Goals: The goals of SB 242 were to: (1) reinforce human trafficking laws; (2) encourage victims of human trafficking to come forward; and (3) prevent future incidents of forced labor (and sex exploitation).   

Concerns: The bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate; there were no concerns at time of passage.


Washington

WashingtonAn Act Relating to Resident Tuition at Institutions of Higher Education (HB 1079 2003)

NBCSL Sponsor: Representative Eric Pettigrew

Summary: Similar to the federally proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, Washington State’s bill was crafted to aid undocumented, immigrant children. It allows for them to receive in-state, or “resident” tuition to Washington state public colleges and universities after meeting the following requirements: (1) graduation from a Washington high school (or a completed GED with at least three years of high school) and (2) completion of an affidavit to the college or university indicating they have filed or will file an application for permanent residency once eligible.

Goals: The goal of HB 1079 was to provide greater opportunities for undocumented students to achieve a higher education without paying higher costs. 

Concerns: The bill does not address the lack of state financial aid for students, especially those  unable to receive federal financial aid because of their immigration status. Additionally, depending on the status of their paperwork, graduates will find difficulty in securing work because of their immigration status.


Connecticut

ConnecticutThe Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act (HB 6659 2013)

NBCSL Sponsors: Representatives Gary Holder-Winfield, Brandon McGhee, Charles Stallworth, and Patricia B. Miller; Senators Eric D. Coleman and Toni Nathaniel Harp

Summary: The TRUST Act restricts the use of civil immigration detainers.  A civil immigration detainer is a policy that requires law enforcement agencies to hold an undocumented immigrant in custody once notified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of its intention to arrest and deport that undocumented immigrant.1  Detainers are a part of the federal government’s Secure Communities program, which requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to send fingerprints to DHS to find individuals who are unlawfully in the U.S. or removable because of a criminal conviction. 

Connecticut’s bill restricts detainers to persons who: (1) have been convicted of a felony, (2) are subject to pending criminal charges in Connecticut where bond has not been posted, (3) have an outstanding warrant in the state, (4) are identified as known gang members in databases that record gang activity, (5) are identified as possible matches in the federal Terrorist Screening Database or anything similar, (6) are subject to a final order of deportation, or  (7) present an unacceptable risk to public safety.  It also limits the amount of time an individual can be detained to 48 hours before being released.

Goals: The goal of the TRUST act was to decrease civil detainment, reduce costs to the state, prevent unnecessary deportations, and promote civil and human rights.

Concerns: Opponents view the bill as making it more difficult to protect the U.S. from dangerous individuals by deterring cooperation between law enforcement agencies.


Minnesota

MinnesotaHF 1233 (2013) Health and Human Services

NBCSL Sponsor: Representative Rena Moran

Summary: Certain provisions of HF 1233 provide health coverage, through MinnesotaCare, for authorized noncitizens ineligible for federal assistance.   For example, the bill covers pregnant women throughout their pregnancy and 60 days after delivery and also extends coverage to families and single adults living up to 200 percent under the Federal Poverty Guidelines.  Lastly, it provides coverage for dialysis services and cancer treatment under emergency medical services for everyone.

Goals: The goal this section of HF 1233 was to offer families and individuals – regardless of immigration status – health coverage and services. 

Concerns: None found.


Conclusion

Although it is unclear what steps federal lawmakers will take on immigration reform, state legislators are primed to create fair and equitable policies that will help individuals integrate smoothly into American life.  After going through the process of starting life anew, people should not be met with additional obstacles.  NBCSL continues to be dedicated to actions that facilitate success for all people.


1 8 C.F.R. 287.7