Pew: State and Local Governments Play Critical Role in Immigration

Pew: State and Local Governments Play Critical Role in Immigration

Report Finds Four Key Areas of Responsibility for States and Localities Should Federal Government Create Legalization Program


WASHINGTON, April 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — A report from The Pew
Charitable Trusts released today reviews previous federal action on immigration
and examines the roles states and localities might have in implementing any new
legalization program. Immigration and Legalization: Roles and Responsibilities of States
and Localities (
highlights four key functions for state and local
governments:  outreach, documentation, education, and protection from

Pew has no position on whether Congress should pass legislation on
immigration, but believes that state and local governments can be prepared to
implement a possible federal initiative. It is also critical that the role of
states and localities be taken under consideration as Congress considers
immigration legislation.

While only the federal government can grant lawful status to immigrants,
state and local governments play critical roles in carrying out legalization
programs, according to the report. If a broad new legalization program were
enacted, states that have historically received the most immigrants, such as
California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas — as well as other states
with new and growing immigrant populations, such as Nevada and Georgia — would
be affected.  Pew’s analysis underscores that the population of
unauthorized immigrants is now more broadly dispersed across the country, and
lays out the particular issues states with new immigrant populations could face
in implementing a legalization program.

“Recent growth and the geographic spread of the unauthorized immigrant
population means that many states and localities will be in uncharted waters
should Congress enact a new legalization program,” said Michele Waslin (
), manager of Pew’s work on immigration and the
states. “It is vital for state and local governments to understand their roles
and be prepared for implementation.”

For the report, Pew examined the roll out of the Immigration Reform and
Control Act, enacted in 1986, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
program, initiated by the Obama administration in 2012. The report shows that
state and local governments have been required, or have chosen, to take on
several key responsibilities, including:  

  • Outreach and public education.  States and localities may
    inform potential applicants about programs and provide information about the
    application process.
  • Documentation. State and local governments may be the source of the
    documentation that applicants need to meet certain eligibility requirements,
    including presence in the United States for a defined period of time and proof
    of educational attainment.
  • Education.  State and local institutions are likely to be the
    source of English language and U.S. history and civics education, as well as
    other specified education that applicants may need to qualify for a
    legalization program.
  • Protection from fraudulent or predatory immigration legal service
    States have played a prominent role in protecting noncitizens
    from fraudulent activities targeting them and promising legal status for a
    fee—a practice that historically occurs when the federal government has
    announced a legalization or immigration relief program or even when there have
    been rumors of a possible new legalization program.


The report notes that the details of any future legalization program would
affect the type and magnitude of involvement by states and localities. Because
states are on the “front line,” the study reinforces the critical need for
federal policymakers to consider the roles and preparedness of states and

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve
today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at

SOURCE  The Pew Charitable Trusts

Pew: State and Local Governments Play Critical Role in Immigration