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National Restaurant Association - States quiet on immigration reform in 2012

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States quiet on immigration reform in 2012

State lawmakers appear to have slowed to a crawl this year in their action on immigration reform, a new report from ImmigrationWorks USA and the National Restaurant Association finds.

Not a single state has moved forward this year with a new mandate requiring employers to participate in the federal E-Verify program -- despite last year's Supreme Court ruling giving states the green light to do so, and after nearly one-third of states enacted some sort of E-Verify mandate between 2006 and 2011. The Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify program enables employers to electronically verify employees' identity and eligibility to work, using a federal database.

Nine states currently require E-Verify use for all private employers; nine others require it for state agencies and/or state contractors.

Waiting for the Supreme Court: Immigration Lawmaking in the States 2012 cites statistics showing that fewer than 900 immigration-related bills were introduced at the state level in 2012, down from more than 1,500 in the same period in 2011.

With Congress apparently deadlocked on federal immigration reform, it's unclear whether the state slowdown is a pause, a reluctance by state lawmakers to tackle controversial immigration issues, the fact that legislators and citizens are distracted by more pressing economic concerns, or a lull before the storm, says Angelo Amador, the NRA's vice president for labor and workforce policy.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on one of the nation's toughest immigration laws, a 2010 Arizona statute focused on crackdowns against illegal immigrants. Many have said the Arizona law goes too far, yet others predict more states will follow in Arizona's footsteps if the Supreme Court decides that states have the right to pass such laws.

Interestingly, five states -- Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California and Vermont -- considered bills to provide work permits to unauthorized immigrants already living and working in the United States. None were enacted as law. Utah has had a similar law on the books since 2011, but is waiting for federal authorization to implement the law.

The ImmigrationWorks/NRA report summarizes action (or inaction) in key states as the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on the 2010 Arizona law.

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