Several immigration rights activists claim presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric is inspiring state lawmakers to write legislation that targets immigrants and refugees.
In a press call, representatives from immigrant rights groups in Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia said since Trump’s announcement to run for president last June, state legislatures have proposed bills that would disproportionately affect immigrant communities. One bill, HB 2223 would defund municipalities deemed “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants or refugees.
Carlos Garcia, the Executive Director of Puente Arizona, said the push for anti-immigrant laws has been “dormant” for the past six years. In Arizona, the passage of SB 1070, a law that allowed law enforcement to ask anyone for proof of their citizenship, pushed community leaders to organize boycotts, which he said cost the state over $200 million in production revenue.
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“In those last six years since then we have not seen anti-immigrant legislation since SB1070,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t until last year when Donald Trump entered the campaign trail targeting our community, which created this hysteria once again.”
Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe, (R-AZ), has also proposed legislation that allows local officials to refuse to cooperate with the federal government to place refugees in their communities before they have been fully screened. Along with that, Arizona House Bill 2370 withholds state funds from any municipality that provides support for refugees who have not received health or criminal backgrounds checks.
“What we hear from Trump is not new,” Garcia said. “We heard it in before from (former Gov) Jan Brewer and the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. This is something that is concerning because it is not a campaign issue now, but it is turning into real policy in the state of Arizona.”
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said Trump’s language is inspiring more white nationalism and anti-Hispanic bills going to the governor’s desk. SR 675 would make English the official language of Georgia, which Nicholls said could and crate barriers for the immigrant community.
“In addition to state laws that create a hostile environment for all immigrants, we have federal initiatives likes 287(g) and the increase in ICE raids that have created fear in the immigrant community,” Nicholls said. “The 2016 raids here in the state are just an example of an extension of ICE our communities face every day.”
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, said two anti-immigrant bills have been struck down in Wisconsin, but SB 533 is still sitting on Gov. Scott Walker's desk. The bill could block counties' ability to issue local identification cards.
She said while there are more and more anti-immigrant bills going through state legislatures, there is tremendous resistance from immigration advocates.
Neumann-Ortiz said not only are states seeing "a repeat of the Arizona copycat in this resurgence, but tremendous resurgence on state by state basis."
The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that enacted legislation dealing with immigration rose 26 percent last year to 216 enacted laws, compared to 171 in 2014. The total is for all laws.
Ann Morse, one of the authors of the NCSL report issued this month, said so far this year she is seeing trends of an increase in bills limiting refugee resettlement and sanctuary cities. She said neither was in bill introductions last year.