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Progressive Movement on Immigration: State Level Efforts Bolster a National Movement

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“There is a real immigration movement out there that isn’t just the right wing, anti-immigrant movement… and we are looking to tell that story,” said Nathan Newman, Policy Director of the Progressive States Network, at a Center for American Progress Action Fund and Progressive States Network event on Thursday.

Although the last two years have seen an increase in significant anti-immigration measures such as over-broad identity theft protection proposals, stringent voter ID laws, and drivers’ license restrictions, a panel of experts convened at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Thursday, March 6, to discuss the positive, and progressive, immigration policies state have enacted that have gone largely ignored by the mainstream media.

“The media narrative is almost entirely wrong” when it comes to the immigration debate, argued Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. Ten states have passed the Dream Act, Illinois grants health care to tens of thousands of undocumented children, and New York courts have granted undocumented workers the full right to sue for worker’s compensation. In fact, according to the panelists, more states have enacted broad-based pro-immigrant laws than have passed the kinds of employer sanction bills that garner so much national attention. Yet what many citizens hear on TV and read in the papers has given rise to a far different narrative.

Understanding this dichotomy in public perception, all the panelists agreed that education needs to be a fundamental component of the progressive fight for fair policies towards immigrants. Texas Representative Garnett Coleman, pointed out that “everybody pays for public schools” through property taxes and sales taxes, and that “it hurts our economy to deny people the right to work,” but these messages aren’t in the mainstream media.

It was further noted that progressives need to focus on solid public policy that lifts everyone, including immigrants. Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez lauded the statewide living wage law passed in Maryland in 2007, as an example of public policy that benefits both immigrants and native-born Americans. She also pointed out that since “public safety trumps immigration concerns,” there is also ground to be gained around state’s driver’s license laws.

Statewide immigration efforts will build the base for national comprehensive immigration reform and policies that work for all Americans. Although it is a slow fight, progressives are laying the groundwork in several states, but there is an ongoing educational effort required to get the message out.

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Center for American Progress' Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
202.478.5328 or

Print: Benton Strong (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.481.8142 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Jennifer Molina
202.796.9706 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Sally Tucker
202.481.8103 or