Deterring Illegal Immigrant Settlement: A Guide to State and Local Action — 2nd Edition (2012)
The full report is available in pdf format.
For years, amnesty proponents and organizations that defend illegal aliens have argued that states and local governments were preempted by the federal government from taking action on illegal immigration. Nevertheless, several years ago these same organizations began to lobby state and local governments, demanding that they accommodate illegal immigrants by adopting sanctuary policies and measures such as: issuing driver’s licenses, providing in-state university tuition, and accepting foreign identification cards and documents (e.g. the Mexican matricula consular card) as valid forms of identification.
Now, with Congress locked in a virtual stalemate on immigration reform legislation, and with state and local lawmakers increasingly exercising their responsibility to protect their constituents from the harmful effects of immigration lawbreakers (see Appendix A), these same organizations are unconvincingly trying to revert to their long-held position that the federal government has sole jurisdiction over immigration issues. In addition, support groups for illegal immigrants routinely bring actions in court the state and local measures adopted to curtail illegal immigrant settlement and those efforts have been joined by the Obama administration. Recent significant federal court rulings have upheld Arizona’s law prohibiting the employment of unauthorized aliens and requiring employers to verify work documents of their employees using the federal electronic database known as E-Verify (see Appendix B).
The argument by the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) that federal responsibility preempts local action is clearly unsustainable. Federal law requires state and local government agencies that distribute federal benefits to screen applicants for legal presence by using a federal database system known as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Federal law also established the E-Verify system to enable employers to verify the identity and legal work status of their employees. Despite efforts by defenders of illegal aliens to depict this program as discriminatory, in 2010 the federal government joined the growing list of states that require use of the program to verify legal worker status by government contractors. In addition, federal law enforcement agencies work cooperatively with local law enforcement agencies to identify illegal immigrants in state and local detention facilities for purposes of reimbursement for some of the expense of incarceration. This collaborative action assures the transfer of the deportable aliens to federal agents for removal from the country. Other cooperative programs include an array of federal-state task forces for addressing issues such as gang violence where gang members are often illegal aliens and efforts to prevent further attacks by international terrorists.
State and local legislation aimed at discouraging illegal immigrant settlement is hotly debated because there are many vested interests either supporting the status quo or working toward amnesty for illegal aliens. These interests include businesses that are employing illegal workers, ethnic advocacy groups, friends and family of illegal residents, AILA and legal defense organizations, church-based groups, and citizens who fail to make a distinction between Americans who need a job and an illegal worker who is seeking a job.
In addition to the difference in legal status and entitlements of legal residents compared to illegal residents, the two categories of foreign residents differ greatly in their impact on a community. It is a disservice to legal immigrants to lump them together with immigration lawbreakers.
The topics below address the following issues:
- Reducing the fiscal impact of illegal immigrants
- Reducing the job magnet that attracts illegal workers
- Protecting job opportunities for our most vulnerable workers
- Protecting neighborhoods
- Protecting citizens from crime
- Protecting against illegal drivers
FAIR is convinced that state and local action within the parameters of federal responsibility for creating and administering immigration laws is both essential and appropriate. When possible, this can be in partnership with the federal government. When federal action is deficient, as it is at present with regard to interior enforcement, state action can help to fill the void. The lessons learned from countering illegal immigration at the state and local levels may also guide and encourage federal lawmakers to overcome the current stalemate and enact needed new laws. To this end, FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), has proven expertise and success in assisting state and local lawmakers in drafting legislation that will be consistent with federal law and stand up to legal challenges from the defenders of illegal aliens. IRLI and FAIR’s field staff stand ready to assist state and local lawmakers and policymakers in shaping measures to local conditions and to further public understanding of the issues involved.