State Implications of Immigration Bill Become Clearer

The much-anticipated immigration reform bill has started to take shape in Washington, D.C., and states now have a better idea of what to expect.

A few weeks ago, Capitol Hill Ideas took a look at the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, known as SCAAP, which is the primary way states are reimbursed for the cost of detaining criminal illegal immigrants. Funding for the program has been in flux for the past several years, and it now appears that immigration overhaul funds SCAAP through 2015.

Another important component of the bill, included as an amendment by U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, would fund transportation infrastructure at border crossings on the northern and southern borders. The law would require consultation with governors of border states and would be funded through a grant program. This has long been a border security policy deficit and should be a welcome program for border states looking to better the federal-state security partnership.

States should note details about how the final bill addresses E-Verify and so-called DREAM Act provisions.

The current legislation requires all businesses to use the E-Verify system, which is an electronic means of validating that a prospective worker is in the United States legally. States are not required to use the system, but the current draft of the bill contains a $250 million grant program for states that volunteer to upload driver’s license information to the E-Verify database.

The DREAM Act was legislation to make the pathway to citizenship easier for young adults brought to the U.S. illegally, but who are upstanding citizens that want to remain in the country. While Congress never passed the legislation, several components of it have been included in the larger immigration overhaul. Minors who were brought to the U.S. illegally before turning 16 and who subsequently completed high school would be eligible for federal benefits after five years under the bill. This would include Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other federal programs with a state cost share.

The cost of the immigration overhaul is estimated to be $17 billion over the next 10 years, primarily because of the new border security measures in the bill. While the legislation requires an upfront payment of $6.5 billion, the full cost is set to be offset by a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund, which is where several new visa and other fees will be deposited.

At this point, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act--as the legislation is known--is literally changing every day, as senators are in the process of debating the 300 proposed amendments to the bill.

CSG will continue to follow the legislative process and report on the impacts states are sure to face.

CSG Resources

Proposed Immigration Reform and Costs to States