President Obama’s executive actions on immigration before the U.S. Supreme Court remain in a state of limbo with the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia. However amidst the uncertainty which has now persisted for the past year, lawmakers in many states haven’t been sitting around waiting for resolution. The number of states that have taken action by passing immigration reform laws has been growing rapidly, by 26 percent last year according to a new study released this week by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year, 216 immigration related laws were enacted as opposed to 171 such laws in 2014. Texas and California had the most new immigration laws enacted of all the states, but in total 49 states as well as Puerto Rico enacted new laws and resolutions relating to immigration. Alaska was the only state that did not enact anything new on immigration.
The new laws cover everything from health, education, employment and licensing issues related to immigrants. In some cases, immigrants have their legal or other rights expanded. California has done the most of any state to improve the rights of undocumented immigrants. One example in California is that health care is allowed for all children regardless of their immigration status. In Oregon, a new law allows students in the country without valid visas to still apply for state-funded financial aid programs. However some states have imposed more restrictions, such as Idaho, where an applicant for a driver’s license must provide proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency. And in West Virginia, a new law establishes that only U.S. citizens are eligible for teacher’s certificates, with an allowance permitted to a person who is an exchange teacher from a foreign country..