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As Congress Stalls, Local Pro-Immigrant Laws Are Surging

New CPD report shows growing role of localities in protecting immigrants


NEW YORK – With millions of immigrants around the country increasingly exposed to attack, cities and states have stepped up to fill the gap left by federal gridlock. A new Center for Popular Democracy report looks at the upsurge of local pro-immigrant policies across the country, including municipal IDs, language access initiatives, access to counsel programs for people facing deportation, and policies to stop local and state police from being co-opted by federal immigration enforcement’s overly aggressive deportation and detention policies.

The report, Promoting Equality, surveys the progress made on the following policies, among others:

  • Municipal IDs: Over a dozen cities now have some form of local municipal identification (muni ID) card, available to all residents regardless of immigration status;
  • Driver’s Licenses: 12 states issue driver’s licenses to undocumented residents;
  • State DREAM Acts: 16 states have laws allowing undocumented residents to access the same tuition benefits that their U.S. Citizen counterparts have at state colleges and universities;
  • Stopping Deportations: 2 states, and more than 300 cities and counties, have policies limiting the co-optation of local law enforcement agencies by Immigration and Customs Enforcement;
  • Non-Citizen Voting: Takoma Park, Maryland, allows non-citizens to vote in local elections and a ballot initiative in San Francisco would grant voting rights to non-citizens.

Cities and states have taken the lead, the report argues, because denying immigrants the right to participate in society hurts local economies. Empowering immigrants to more fully engage with their community provides a variety of tangible benefits, while forcing local law enforcement to carry out mass deportations drains resources from police and other law enforcement agencies, making communities less safe. 

The report includes numerous case studies of successful policy victories in cities and states from New York to Texas, looking at the organizing strategies behind these victories and their impact on local communities. As lawmakers around the country look for ways to support immigrants and create economic opportunity, this report can serve as a toolkit and a resource.

The full report can be found here

Andrew Friedman, Co-Executive Director of Center for Popular Democracy, released the following statement:

“Welcoming immigrant residents is not just the right thing to do – it is a win-win for local economies and the well-being of communities. More and more cities and states have recognized this fundamental truth. We hope this report can inspire others to take action and help our country once again benefit from the ingenuity and hard work of immigrants who come here seeking safety and opportunity from around the world.”

Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, also released a statement: 

“As Washington has failed immigrant communities through its inaction on immigration reform, cities have been playing a critical role in protecting immigrant families. In New York City, immigrant integration policies like IDNYC and guaranteeing language access have proven essential for enabling all residents to be able to access government services. And successful efforts to draw a bright line between immigration enforcement and local law enforcement have made important strides in improving public safety.”

Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, also released a statement:

"We are proud to have fought for policies that have made New York City a national leader on immigrant rights. Programs to provide immigrants with municipal ID cards, access to a lawyer, and to help more immigrants learn English have been a lifeline for immigrants all over the city and have made New York a more vibrant, prosperous place. We look forward to working with other cities to achieve the same progress we have made."

Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of United We Dream, also released a statement: 

“United We Dream is a membership-led network which got our start by leading local campaigns to win tuition equity. Since then, our members’ groups and leaders have continued to wage local campaigns to create local IDs in North Carolina, win tuition equity in Connecticut and end the deportation policies of Houston, Texas. As we fight to win major victories at the national level in the coming years, United We Dream affiliates will not stop seeking out local opportunities to win justice for our communities.”



The Center for Popular Democracy promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base-building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country. CPD builds the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial justice agenda.



Asya Pikovsky, apikovsky@populardemocracy.org, 207-522-2442

Anita Jain, ajain@populardemocracy.org, 347-636-976