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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Immigration and Federalism in the U.S.: Should States like Arisona Participate?

On July 1, 2010, on the precipice of another July 4th celebration, President Obama told an audience that immigration was, in sum, “broken.” Furthermore, “everybody knows it.”  Yet neither he nor the Democratic leadership in Congress had any expectation of passing an immigration law in 2010.  Into this void, Arizona had months earlier passed its own law aimed at tightening enforcement. The New York Times reported that in his speech in July, Obama “used the opportunity to repeat his opposition to Arizona’s new law requiring law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of anyone they stop for other reasons if they suspect that they are in the country illegally, calling it ‘ill conceived’ and ‘divisive’.” The President said, “We face the prospect that different rules for immigration will apply in different parts of the country, a patchwork of different immigration rules where we all know one clear national standard is needed… . Our task then is to make our national laws actually work, to shape a system that reflects our values as a nation of laws and as a nation of immigrants.”  Different rules sounds like different immigration policies—as in who can enter the US.  If the President meant this, then he had a point. However, if he was arguing that tailoring different enforcement mechanisms to different regions, it could be argued counterwise that e pluribus union in a federal system not only allows for it, but thrives by it. In other words, the empire-scale of the US warrants a diversity of approaches. Furthermore, a federal system enables and indeed is strengthened by it.

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.