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November 9, 2012

Key Coalition of Anti-Immigrant State Lawmakers Declines by 30% after Election

State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), a coalition of lawmakers working to introduce and pass anti-immigrant legislation at the state level, will lose members when the new legislatures convene in January. Starting in 2013, the coalition will officially drop from 68 members to 49, a decline of more than 30%. The coalition not only loses size but scope, with representation dropping from 40 states to 33.

The coalition, started by Pennsylvania Representative Daryl Metcalfe, is very closely tied to the anti-immigrant movement in the United States. The coalition’s website currently boasts 68 members from 40 states. While these numbers are slightly exaggerated because they include some members who are no longer elected representatives (Russell Pearce, for example, the former Arizona State Senator was recalled in 2011), the additional loss of 19 members will result in a far smaller coalition.

In the 2012 elections, many SLLI members did not run for reasons ranging from term limit restrictions, to running for another public sector position or choosing retirement. The decline in SLLI membership is a blow to the anti-immigrant movement, which partially relies on SLLI members to push anti-immigrant legislation.

Just a few months after SLLI’s founding in 2007, Daryl Metcalfe was joined by Dan Stein, president of the largest anti-immigrant group in the United States, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Mike Hethmon of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), FAIR’s legal arm, at a press conference. At the press conference, SLLI announced that it had “entered into a working partnership” with IRLI. Essentially, IRLI works with SLLI members to draft anti-immigrant legislation which the SLLI member then introduces in his/her state legislature. This partnership has been effective, most notably in Arizona where then-SLLI member Russell Pearce worked with IRLI to draft the harshest anti-immigrant bill at the time, SB 1070.

Unfortunately, the decline in SLLI membership will likely not spell a decline in the amount of anti-immigrant legislation introduced at the state level. The anti-immigrant movement does not rely solely on SLLI to introduce legislation that it drafts. In Alabama, for example, IRLI drafted HB 56, a law even harsher than Arizona’s SB 1070, but did not court a SLLI member to introduce the bill.

It remains to be seen whether Metcalfe will attempt to recruit new members for his coalition post-election. Regardless, the anti-immigrant movement, and more specifically IRLI, will continue to draft anti-immigrant legislation based on its “attrition through enforcement” (self-deportation) model and seek out lawmakers in states around the country willing to introduce it.

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