Monday, October 15, 2007

State Regulation of Illegal Immigration

While President Bush and Congress continue to debate immigration legislation, the Washington Post today has an article reporting on the laws being passed by individual states in an attempt to delineate the rights of immigrants in their states. As states are taking it upon themselves to pass this legislation, the fear seems to be that federal standards will never be possible; the longer states are required to regulate immigration issues on their own, most often enacting legislation different or entirely contrary to other states’ legislation, the harder it will be to create uniform rules.

According to the article, 182 bills in 43 states were passed in the first half of 2007, more than doubling the 2006 total of state-enacted immigration laws. Some issues being addressed by this legislation include: the issuance of driver’s licenses; employment background checks to determine an immigrant’s status; and, the “transportation” and “harboring” of illegal immigrants.

While some see this influx of state-enacted immigration legislation as problematic, some argue that states have no other choice but to act while the federal government continues to work on uniform federal legislation. As the federal government continues to debate the best solution, states are left with the reality of how to handle the illegal immigration issues that are affecting their cities and towns. States cannot just sit back and wait as illegal immigrants continue to enter into their borders.

Still others see the state-enacted legislation as an opportunity to see what will work best when establishing federal regulations. With a large variety of state immigration laws, the national government will be able to observe and study what seem to be the best procedures for handling illegal immigration issues. The only issue with such a “laboratory” approach is that it takes time; if too much time is taken to observe how states handle illegal immigration and what is working, it would seem that even more disparate state immigration laws would be passed making it even harder to pass the uniform federal rules desired.

The issue of illegal immigration is certainly one that is garnering much attention. As evidenced by the increase in immigration related legislation passed already this year, it seems that states are eager to establish laws that will remedy the problems associated with the issue. However, as long as states continue to make disparate and sometimes contrary laws, it is expected that illegal immigration problems will continue, just perhaps in states with more lenient laws. As such, it appears that a uniform set of laws created by the federal government will be the best solution to alleviate the issue of illegal immigration; however, the longer the federal government takes in passing such rules, the harder it will be to unify the states under this single set of rules.

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