Today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that would make it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and would allow state law enforcement to require individuals to produce proof that they are in the U.S. legally. This decision is a major stepping stone in terms of encouraging other states, as well as local governments, to assert themselves in terms of immigration policy.
Under the Tenth Amendment which preserves the traditional police powers of the states to control their own jurisdictions. The Heritage Foundation has advocated for extensive innovation at the lowest levels of government in terms of immigration enforcement. A 2009 report of Matt Mayer highlights how “state and local governments must [and can] do more” to do something about the illegal immigration problem—a conclusion that came from a series of THF roundtables aimed at talking to state and local officials about pressing public policy problems.
In fact, as Mayer points out, Arizona is not the first state to grow tired of waiting for the federal government to get serious about immigration enforcement. States like California and cities like Valley Park, Missouri have enacted laws and ordinances to enforce the law. Arizona itself enacted a law in 2007, which would crackdown on illegal hiring and require employers to use the federal employment check system, E-Verify, a law which has withstood significant legal challenges. In fact several states have enjoyed legal victories despite a significant number of court challenges on their ability to take such actions.
In terms of resources and in terms of political will, it has become abundantly clear that the federal government refuses to make the right decisions in terms of enforcing the law and making the critical reforms necessary to drive down illegal immigration. Sadly, efforts in Congress have been more about gaining political votes through an unnecessary amnesty than on honest and effective reforms.
Americans shouldn’t have to wait on Congress to start enforcing the laws on the books. Governor Brewer should be applauded for preserving rule of law and taking the power out of Washington to direct the debate on immigration reform. The federal government should listen clearly: state and local governments don’t like what the feds are offering.