(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Undocumented nannies, housekeepers, or lawn caretakers in the state of Texas can perhaps breathe easier about deportation, as new legislation in the Texas House of Representatives would make it a state crime to hire undocumented workers, except those employed in single-family households.
The bill, introduced by state GOP Rep. Debbie Riddle, is the first of its kind in the country. It's unique in that while it appeases those who want more stringent immigration laws, it doesn't subject Texas households to the rule that would mainly apply to businesses and large employers.
Critics of the bill say it's hypocritical. Supporters charge the measure is needed in a state where the Hispanic population continues to climb swiftly.
Though it remains stuck in political limbo, the bill reflects a wider push toward implementing tougher anti-immigration laws at the state level. More than 100 immigration-related bills are pending in the Texas legislature alone, including those that would give state and local police officers the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, make English the official language, and prevent undocumented students from getting in-state tuition and scholarships.
States across the country, including Georgia and Oklahoma, where the legislatures debated immigration bills this week, have been mulling controversial Arizona-style immigration laws. Thirty-seven states are considering tougher immigration bills, with multiple bills pending in some states.
"The mere fact that Arizona law has sprung up in over 24 other states within a few months of passage, I believe, is historic," said William Gheen, president and spokesman of Americans for Legal Immigration, a group that supports stricter immigration laws.
"We are going to pass more immigration enforcement legislation in the states in 2011 than any year prior. And what we don't get done in 2011 we will get done in 2012," he vowed.
States enacted a record number of bills and resolutions on immigration issues during the 2010 sessions, and every state that met in regular session in 2010 considered laws related to immigrants, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures report. Forty-six state legislatures and the District of Columbia passed 208 laws and adopted 138 resolutions for a total of 346.
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