Washington, D.C.–State legislators encouraged officials to consider the fiscal impact on states during a meeting on federal immigration reform at the White House Thursday. State senators Mo Denis (D), Majority Leader of Nevada, and Curt Bramble (R), Senate President Pro Tem of Utah, spearheaded the meeting on behalf of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Task Force on Immigration and the States.
The White House meeting followed an event to promote immigration reform held on Tuesday at the White House. Both senators attended that event featuring business and labor leaders, Republican and Democratic elected officials, law enforcement officers and faith and civil rights leaders. Senators Denis and Bramble agreed with President Obama that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“Now is the time for the country to come together and for members of both the House and Senate to be statesmen,” said Senator Bramble. “This is a challenge of our time, and doing nothing is simply no longer an option.”
Senator Denis concurred, saying, “I have been tremendously impressed by some on both sides of the aisle here in Washington that have been working together to get this important legislation passed. With that said, we at the state level have some concerns, including costs. Whether you’re talking about healthcare or programs that teach English, states need help, not unfunded mandates.”
During the White House meeting and at numerous meetings on Capitol Hill, NCSL has stressed the following immigration reform priorities:
1. Border security and enforcement is critical. NCSL urges the federal government to fulfill its responsibilities with regard to border security, especially for personnel and improvements in technology and infrastructure.
2. Immigration reform must address the fiscal impact on states. A critical component for NCSL support is State Impact Grants, a reliable, guaranteed funding source to ameliorate the costs states and localities bear in health, including public health, and education, including English language acquisition, to immigrant populations.
3. Immigration reform legislation must contain full funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The burden of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants who have committed crimes, been convicted and are serving their time in state and local jails should be fully borne by the federal government. SCAAP currently reimburses state governments for approximately 18 percent of the total costs incurred.
4. NCSL supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a temporary worker program and the creation of an earned legalization program for unauthorized immigrants currently in the country. NCSL opposes amnesty. Earned legalization should include appropriate fines and penalties that are proportional to the violation.
NCSL is the bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staff of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.