Immigration is a state issue, too

Immigration is a state issue, too

June 19th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It's more than a tad galling for Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general of the United States, to lecture Southeastern states on the fact that America's "immigration process is broken, and our immigration strategy is at best outdated and at worst ineffective."

Of course, his statement is of the no-duh variety. But it's galling because even as Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush, and other officials at an immigration forum in Atlanta were acknowledging the sorry state of the federally run immigration system, they were telling the states to butt out of the issue.

In their dreams.

Washington's, shall we say, drowsy approach to illegal immigration is what saddled the United States with an estimated 11 million to 20 million illegal aliens -- quite a few of whom take jobs that otherwise might be filled by U.S. citizens or by lawful immigrants. But of perhaps greater direct concern to state governments are the billions of dollars they have spent on health care and other social services for those who are in this country illegally.

Those concerns are largely what have prompted dozens of states to enact laws that do things such as limit the provision of taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens.

Yet the immigration forum in Atlanta seemed to give little attention to those matters, preferring instead to focus on telling the states to back off.

State laws lack the "teeth to be able to do anything" about immigration, Dalton, Ga., Mayor David Pennington said.

We beg to differ. State laws can have a significant impact on illegal immigration, as they have in Arizona and other states when activist federal courts haven't nullified them.

But the federal government as a whole is hardly more cooperative than the courts.

For example, officials in Florida have come up with a list of more than 180,000 registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens. To double check, they have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for access to a federal citizenship database. Yet the department says no. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is suing Florida to stop the state from purging ineligible individuals from its voter rolls.

This is the same federal government, mind you, that wants the states to leave to Washington matters pertaining to immigration.

No thanks. There is a great deal the states could and would do to defend themselves from the costs and other troubling aspects of illegal immigration -- if only Washington would get out of the way.

Alas, that scarcely seems to be in prospect.