NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 1, 2008

Arizona is at the heart of what many say is the biggest, angriest storm over immigration to hit the United States in nearly a century.  Efforts to combat illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America are popping up across the state, turning Arizona into a laboratory for new ways to crack down on illegal immigrants, says the Wall Street Journal.

Arizona employers can lose their licenses if they hire undocumented workers.  English is now the state's official language.  And the latest idea being floated in the state legislature would bar U.S. citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants.

  • Today's debate is partly a reaction to the fact that the United States is now home to more than 35 million immigrants, an all-time high in absolute numbers, scholars say.
  • The density of the foreign-born population -- almost 13 percent of the total -- is approaching the 15 percent peak reached in the last massive wave of immigration from the 1880s to 1920s, according to scholars who study immigration.

The current wave of immigration has reached pockets of the country untouched by immigration for decades, and the fact that a huge number of the immigrants -- 12 million -- are here illegally further inflames passions:

  • Nationally, more than 1,500 pieces of legislation were introduced in state houses last year related to illegal immigration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • Coming from all but four states, 244 of them became laws -- three times as many as were passed in 2006.
  • Arizona is one of the top states in terms of enacted laws last year, with a total of 13; the proposals typically tackle employment, law enforcement, drivers' licenses and public benefits.

Source: Miriam Jordan, "Arizona Seizes Spotlight In U.S. Immigration Debate: State's Aggressive Stance Is Spurred by Newcomers; 'We're Being Overrun,' "Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2008.

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