With Congress not acting on the issue, state legislatures are debating whether to increase border enforcement at their own expense, fine employers who use undocumented workers, and get local police involved in deporting them, reports USA Today. It’s unclear how far the proposals would go because, like Congress, legislatures are divided on what to do about the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who provide a low-wage workforce. Federal law may limit state power on actions like penalizing employers, says Ann Morse of at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Immigration policy is one of the hottest issues as 37 legislatures convene this month. Last year, states considered 300 immigration laws and approved 40. That number is expected to rise this year. Arizona is debating a radar system and video cameras along the state’s 340-mile border with Mexico. About a dozen states are considering employer sanctions. Kentucky’s proposal, for example, would fine employers up to $5,000 for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Border states and a few others are ready to spend their own money on immigration enforcement. State and local police would be asked to check the residency status of people arrested or give traffic tickets.