Immigration Across The Nation 02/18/2009

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►Iowa Immigrant Law Shelved

A prospective Iowa law that would have given more authority to local and state police to handle undocumented immigrant cases has been indefinitely shelved, according to a report from Radio Iowa. The law would have provided for less reliance on federal immigration enforcement, giving local authorities much more control over the arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants.

But the bill has been indefinitely shelved by Democrats who control the Iowa House debate agenda, citing budget difficulties. But it’s about more than money, according to Iowa Dept. of Public Safety spokesman Ross Loder. “If we go into a community and we’re investigating a sexual assault or murder, we might have to go in and win [and] maintain trust from people who may or may not be legally present in the country,” Loder said.

According to Loder, taking on the responsibility for policing immigrant status would detract from and perhaps hinder more pressing concerns on law enforcement officials. Furthermore, Democratic state Rep. Bruce Hunter is canvassing to repeal a law that makes English the state’s official language and requires a large majority of government documents to be solely presented in English. “It’s really sent out the wrong message about the state of Iowa,” he said.

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►Local and State Immigration Laws Rescinded

Legal challenges, procedural costs, and sensitivity to racism and social profiling have led to a number of non-federal immigration laws being modified or done away with altogether, reports USA Today. “The appetite for these things is going down,” said Migration Policy Institute member Muzaffar Chishti, referring to tough immigration laws on the local and state level. “The cost of enforcing and defending these ordinances is enormous,” he added.

Utah, Texas, and Alabama join Iowa as some of the states which are working actively to cut high-expenditure immigration legislation, such as detention initiatives and programs to make English the official language. Such legislation has become far more costly than expected as successful challenges in the courts become more numerous, in addition to pressure from minority representation groups such as the ACLU.

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►State of Washington Proposes Tuition Program for Undocumented Immigrants

Low income undocumented immigrants are already eligible in the state of Washington for in-state tuition, but they have not yet been afforded the right to financial aid. A new bill would provide for funding for undocumented immigrants in Washington under the existing State Need Grant, which provides up to $6,000 a year for students from low income families. The state’s population of Latino K-12 students has risen 372% over the past two decades, according to a study from the Seattle Times, and many of those students are looking towards college.

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Undocumented immigrants are currently ineligible for most private scholarships and state and federal grants. “When you say to a well-qualified high-school graduate that there’s no assistance but you can go to college, that to me, is a huge barrier,” bill sponsor Rep. Dave Quall (D – Mt. Vernon) said. “Education should have no borders.”

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