LITTLE ROCK, AR - A group of lawmakers from the Republican stronghold of northwest Arkansas is hoping a series of hearings on the costs of illegal immigrants in the state will draw more support for action on the issue. They hope that frustration with the federal government's lack of action on immigration issues may spur more action on the state level.
State Representative Rick Green of Van Buren says he hopes Arkansas will follow state legislatures across the nation that have increasingly taken on concerns over illegal immigrants. A study by the National Conference of State Legislatures found 171 immigration bills became law in 41 states in the first half of this year. That's more than double the 84 laws that passed in all of 2006.
Oklahoma, for instance, now has a law denying jobs and public benefits to illegal immigrants. Tennessee's legislature passed a bill making it a crime to transport illegal immigrants into the state, and revoking business licenses for companies that knowingly employ them.
Green and Representative Jon Woods of Bentonville, who spearheaded a hearing on immigration last week, are making plans for another hearing in September. They say they hope they can generate support for bills dealing with illegal immigrants when the Legislature meets again. As it stands now, that's not until January 2009.