Fighting Illegal Immigration at the Local Level
It's a terrible Catch-22. For years now, the powers that be in Washington have done next to nothing to help define and refine the nation's immigration laws. So states and municipalities have started to tackle the job themselves. When the 'locals' are finally exasperated enough to take action, however, they're hauled into court for encroaching on the federal government's purview!
Let me get this straight. The feds won't act to fix our immigration mess, but the states can't do anything either because it's the feds' job? Oh, what a paralyzed mess we've become in this country!
We've all heard about what Arizona did. The state's officials showed real daring in the fight to be proactive about identifying, prosecuting and deporting those who should never have entered America in the first place. Arizona now has the toughest anti-illegal-immigrant laws in the land, but they're also mired in expensive court fights. One such suit has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
You may also have heard that this Monday, June 28, people in the small town of Fremont, Neb., vote whether to adopt a first-step law to control those who are in their town illegally through regulating where they can live and work.
But you may not know that almost 40 other municipalities in 18 other states have already gone this route. That's how intense the frustration level is in this country! Government bodies in states across the country have thrown up their hands at the lack of immigration action on Capitol Hill and have tried to tackle the job themselves.
All these local attempts started with something very basic to every human: housing. These state and city lawmakers figured if illegals found it tough to rent a place in their locality, they would go somewhere else. The idea was to make landlords demand hard proof of a renter's citizenship and to enforce strong penalties against those who rented to illegals.
Officials in these places — from Missouri, Illinois and Kansas to the Carolinas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma — ultimately gave up the idea of trying to regulate immigrants' housing mostly because they feared the cost of defending their actions in court. Every time one of these localities talked about how they could legislate the problem, the American Civil Liberties Union or Latino groups made it clear they would immediately file discrimination lawsuits if such laws passed.
Lawmakers in many of the 40 towns or cities also considered penalties against employers who hired undocumented workers, but they gave up on that, too. Again, just too expensive to defend, they explained.
All local attempts have failed. Courts across the land continue to rule that it is the job of the federal government to pass such laws. So where the heck is Washington in all this? President after president comes and goes. Session after session of Congress opens and closes, and we are no closer to any meaningful immigration law changes.
Remember the names Hazelton, Pa., and Farmer's Branch, Texas. Stalwart town leaders in those two locations have refused to give up — or in — to the lawsuits. Along with the state of Arizona, these two towns stand as reminders to Washington that America will continue to hold their feet to the fire until they do something to right the sinking ship that is our current immigration policy.
Hazelton was the first American city to pass a local illegal immigration ordinance in 2006. The Dallas suburb of Farmer's Branch quickly followed the same year. So far, they've spent at least 500 thousand and 3.4 million dollars, respectively, defending their actions to protect their community.
Officials in both places say they fully expect the price tag will rise by several million dollars more. But they've concluded that's cheaper than paying for English as a second language programs in public schools, emergency room and health care costs, and the extra expense for adding more police. In Farmer's Branch, Texas, officials report that since they made their intentions known to crack down on illegal aliens, even the uninsured accident rate has plummeted.
So, when you read about citizens in little Fremont, Neb. — population 25,000 — going to vote next Monday on its immigration ordinance, what will you think? Maybe that it's just another futile attempt to pass a law several courts have already struck down.
I prefer to look at it as thousands more American voices rising up to tell Washington they are getting fed up and want action on the problem.
You know, if you paid a painter or plumber or electrician to do a job that never got done, you'd ask for your money back and fire them. It's a shame we can't do that with our national politicians, as we add immigration reform to the growing list of things they just never seem to get done.
Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com for investigative reporting, polls and more. To find out more about Diane Dimond and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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