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is imigration legal

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State and municipal immigration regulations are problematic for documented and undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens, and raise preemption challenges because they can conflict with existing national immigration laws. Although these state and municipal regulations have the potential to benefit immigrant communities, more recently they have been used as tools to disempower documented and undocumented immigrants and, to an extent, U.S. citizens. This paper will look at the legislative conflicts inherent in these regulations as well as their impact on individuals, and businesses.

After months of demonstrations and heated debates on congressional immigration reform, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 died because it failed to pass the conference committee. Its death marked the birth of a number of state and municipal laws and ordinances designed to do "something" about the "immigration problem." After Congress's failed attempt to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law, local bills were passed to "get tough" on immigration and to send a message to the federal government that something needed to be done and something would be done. Unfortunately, that "something" took the form of 570 proposed pieces of legislation concerning immigrants, at least 90 bills and resolutions passed, and 84 bills signed into law in 32 states in 2006 alone. 1 In 2007, the number of state laws enacted tripled that of 2006, 240 laws compared to 84 laws. 2 Additionally, in 2007, 1,562 immigration bills were introduced and 46 states enacted local immigration laws. 3 These laws address legal and unauthorized immigration in the context of identification/licenses, employment, education, voting, housing, language and public benefits. 4

Despite the proliferation of negative ordinances, not all of the ordinances and state laws are unconstructive. In June 2007, the city council of New Haven, Connecticut passed an ordinance which would allow all residents, including illegal immigrants, to obtain identification cards that would let them open bank accounts and use other services that were previously unavailable without a driver's licenses or state issued identification card. There have been other laws, such as those in New York, Maryland, and Florida enacted to fight human trafficking and the abuse of migrant workers. 5 But these laws are the minority. The majority of proposed and enacted ordinances and state laws have not attempted to give immigrants more rights or to empower them. Rather, these immigration ordinances and laws have been designed to restrict and penalize illegal immigrants and, as a result, documented immigrants and US citizens have suffered.

The state laws and city ordinances are problematic because they add an unnecessary burden on both U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs) by forcing individuals and business entities to legitimize their hiring decisions. For example, one Colorado state immigration law, passed January 1, 2006, requires all Colorado employers to examine the legal work status of every newly hired employee and to make copies of all documents that an employee uses to prove work eligibility. 6 The law also requires that the employers sign an attestation confirming under penalty of perjury that the employer did not knowingly hire an illegal worker. 7 Violations of the law result in a $5,000 fine for the first violation and a possible $25,000 fine for all subsequent violations. 8 This law places a legal burden on the employer that surpasses that which is imposed by federal regulations. In accordance to the Immigration and Nationality Act § 274A, employers can accept documents for the I-9 without independent verification as long as the documents reasonably appear genuine. 9 However, these measures would not be enough to satisfy the Colorado state law. Currently, there are at least 25 similar immigration- employment laws in at least 18 states. 10

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