Inclusive Policies Advance Dramatically in the States: Immigrants' Access to Driver's Licenses, Higher Education, Workers' Rights, and Community Policing

by Jennifer Macias; Joan Friedland; Josh Stehlik; Maria Sofia Corona; Melissa Keaney; Tanya Broder

Oct 1, 2013
As Congress debated federal immigration reform this year, states led the way by adopting policies designed to integrate immigrants more fully in their communities. In the wake of the 2012 elections, with Latino and Asian voters participating in record numbers,1 the 2013 state legislative sessions witnessed a significant increase in pro-immigrant activity. Issues that had been dormant or had moved in a restrictive direction for years, such as expanding access to driver's licenses, gained considerable traction, along with measures improving access to education and workers' rights for immigrants.

This report summarizes the activity on immigrant issues that took place during the states' 2013 legislative sessions, as well as efforts to improve access to services for immigrant youth.
  • As Congress continues to deliberate over federal immigration reform, state and local governments are moving forward with policies that integrate immigrants into communities and enhance their ability to contribute to the nation's economic and social health.
  • Pro-immigrant legislative and administrative victories reflect a shift in attitude across much of the country.
  • Stepped-up civic participation by immigrant communities contributed to the political changes that made these policies possible.
  • In places where earlier waves of anti-immigrant activism produced restrictive policies, residents increasingly find that the policies are unworkable legally, practically, and politically, which is motivating them to explore more inclusive alternatives.
  • Those who wish to block this progress will be left behind as the country's demographics continue to evolve, along with the growing understanding that the nation's success depends on all of its residents and that investing in immigrant communities will benefit all of us.
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