Local government groups praised the U.S. Senate after passage of an immigration reform bill.
The Senate bill, which passed 68 to 32, would invest tens of billions of dollars in enhanced border security and includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country.
National groups representing cities and counties have supported changes to the immigration system. The National Association of Counties (NACo) published a report in June that details how the current system burdens county governments. Counties operate jails used to detain undocumented immigrants and hospitals often tasked with providing emergency room care to the undocumented population; in some cases, counties cover the cost of k-12 public education of undocumented children.
The county association did have one criticism for the Senate bill: It does not include a grant program for state and local governments to provide health and education to so called Registered Provisional immigrants, those who were in the country without authorization before 2012 and did not leave since then.
Other local government groups have also been supportive of immigration reform and the basic principles embodied in the Senate bill. In June 2012, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution supporting increased border security, a path to citizenship, a means for maintaining immigrant labor in the agricultural sector, and policies to encourage foreign students to stay in the United States and work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Like NACo, the Conference of Mayors argues that state and local governments bear a disproportionate share of the cost associated with unauthorized immigration.
“While this bill is not perfect, it goes a long way towards increasing the economic competitiveness of our nation,” said Marie Lopez Rogers, president of the National League of Cities, in a written statement. Rogers, who is also the mayor of Avondale, Ariz., said she was concerned about the prospects of passing a similar bill in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Instead, that chamber is more likely to consider policies in piecemeal fashion. House Speaker John Boehner has said the package of policies would need support from a majority of his Republican members.