Updated 07:22 AM EDT, Fri, Jul 10, 2020

Immigration Reform 2013: More Cities Pass Measures Welcoming Immigrants

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Arizona has been viewed as hostile to undocumented immigrants ever since the passage of the the controversially austere SB 1070 law, which allows frequent checks for residents' citizenship papers or visas. 

Yet, liberal-leaning Tucson is pushing back against the "papers, please" law by voting to change how police implement the immigration status checks during law enforcement stops, a provision upheld by the Supreme Court when the rest of the bill was struck down in June 2012. 

Now, due to the vote, minors may not be questioned without a guardian or attorney present, and people who report a crime can do so without being subject to having their immigration status checked. 

The city wants to work with the law, but also wants to ensure that they're "not doing the work of border patrol," said Regina Romero, a Tucson City Council member.

Tucson is one of a number of cities that are becoming more welcoming to immigrants and pushing for immigration reform, according to The Christian Science Monitor

Chicago's Office of New Americans is implementing a new plan to incorporate the city's half-million foreign-born residents to encourage economic growth. In Dayton, Ohio, programs are being implemented to lure immigrants into new neighborhoods where there are empty houses.

And Chattanooga, Tenn. is helping connect their growing immigrant population with local agencies to smooth community integration. 

"The pendulum's swinging the other way now," says Frank Bean, chancellor's professor of sociology and director of the Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine.

From January to June in 2013, 43 states and the District of Columbia passed laws or resolutions related to immigration, most of which seek to make life easier and encourage integration into American society. 

In October, California passed a series of pro-immigration measures, including one that hinders the ability of federal authorities to deport illegal immigrants. 

Immigration experts say that the change in policies and outlook reflects the reality that immigrants are vital to the nation's economic sustainability. Now, with immigration reform stalled in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives after a bill passed in the Senate in June, municipalities are deciding to address immigration issues on their own. 

Professor Bean said that a major reason why municipalities are welcoming immigrants is because of the need for blue-collar workers. He said there is a reduction in low-skilled workers, so "towns are noticing that they need these [foreign-born] workers."

Groups such as the Atlanta-based nonprofit Welcoming America promote an inclusive environment for immigrants. Since 2009, the group has worked to increase understanding between immigrants and their new communities. This past summer, it signed 22 municipalities onto an initiative that aims to build welcoming communities. 

Meanwhile, immigrants and immigration advocates are still waiting on the passage of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, which advocates are hoping will pass in the House in 2014. 

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