Tuesday August 02, 2011
The Battle Over States’ Rights Wages On
Immigration in this country is considered a national issue with obvious interstate implications. Consequently, it has long been the providence of the federal government to set and maintain U.S. immigration policy. Now, the state of Alabama wishes to craft its own version of U.S. Immigration Law.
Only the federal government, the argument goes, has a full understanding of the complexity of national immigration law and its effects on different states. It would likely be a disaster to have multiple sources of immigration authority, each independently trying to negotiate immigration policy. It could even give rise to law suits concerning an individual’s right to equal protection under the law. Nevertheless, the state of Alabama is trying to pass the strictest immigration policy yet on the books.
The proposed law criminalizes undocumented immigration in Alabama, and would allow law enforcement to detain individuals with “reasonable suspicion” of undocumented status. The law would also make it illegal to give undocumented immigrants rides and requires school districts to check on the immigration status of students who enroll. The law is modeled on Arizona’s immigration efforts, parts of which have already been blocked by federal courts.
In the eyes of the Justice Department, the states are overstepping their authority by wading into something that is a strictly federal responsibility. As Joyce Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama explained, “to put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game.”
Outside groups are weighing in, including the ACLU who applauded Justice’s lawsuit, and argued that Alabama’s immigration law is “draconian” and “anti-immigrant.” Also, Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder have both issued statements affirming that immigration is the province of the federal government, and that “legislation like this diverts critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety.”
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